LOS ANGELES, Calif.–Hundreds of people waited in a line that wrapped around the block in Skid Row today for the Los Angeles Mission’s annual Good Friday banquet.

Celebrities and politicians and about 400 volunteers turned out to serve food and distribute Easter baskets and new shoes to the homeless and underserved.

Mission president Herb Smith said he anticipated serving about 3,000 lunches, consisting of macaroni and cheese, salad, a roll and gourmet pecan pie.

“They love our mac n’ cheese. It’s a traditional special sauce, if you will,” Smith said.

The event marked the beginning of the mission’s 75th year of operation.

Smith said the mission has put on more than 20 events for the Easter holiday.
“We like to do street events around the holidays to celebrate. We feel it uplifts the Skid Row area,” Smith said. “You eat at the kitchen table every day, but eventually you want to do something special and fun, and that’s what this is about.”

Mary Louise Smith said she became homeless six months ago after her mother died, and she was forced to sell her home to meet her mother’s debt obligations.

“I’m taking steps now to help my situation. I come here six days a week, Mondays through Saturdays,” Smith said. “I like the food, but I come to help my spiritual situation.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was among those serving food and greeting guests.

“Happy Easter everybody,” he said as he walked up and down rows of tables, shaking hands and taking pictures.

“This is an opportunity for us to reach out to a stranger and say I care. I love you,” Villaraigosa said. “I love doing this and I love being with people, and I love serving the city.”

Actress and former model Angie Everhart participated in the Mission’s Easter event for the first time. She said her family is so fortunate, and it was nice to come down to feed other families and children.

“I can’t believe how organized it is,” she said. “The children are smiling, and people are filing in one after another. I think this is a fantastic event. You’ll see me next year.”

Etnies, an Orange County-base shoe company, donated 2,000 pairs of shoes for the event. Owner Pierre-Andre Senizergues said it was an easy call for him, because he was homeless when he first moved to Los Angeles from France 25 years ago.

The former skateboard world champion said events like this are important to remind the homeless that they’re not alone.

“When you live in the streets, you feel very lonely. A lot of time, you feel like people are looking at you, but you feel not recognized,” he said.

”I think an event like this makes people feel loved. They feel other people are there for them. They feel appreciated and recognized. They feel much better.”

By Richie Duchon | City News Service