On Sunday, November 18th American University of Health Sciences Foundation hosted another successful Thanksgiving feast for the homeless citizens as well as those in need of an act of kindness this holiday season. The event was held at the Second Samoan Congregational Church located on Cedar Avenue in Long Beach, California. The Acts of Love Giving Thanks event offered a full course hot meal, and a sense of belonging and fellowship for the day. Pastor Gregory Johnson, founder of AUHS began the sunny and cool morning with a prayer. The underlying tone of pastor Johnson’s words evoke a tone of compassion and hope. On this day he was able to take individuals who were weary in mind and low in hope to believe that they too are anointed with the grace of God and are worthy of a life blessed with compassion.
Behind the scenes, AUHS’ School of Nursing students and community volunteers set up the feast, although some moments were hectic to ensure everything was just right, everyone involved was able to collaborate, pull all of the pieces together and ensured a smooth delivery for the guests. Students and volunteers put together nearly four hundred utensil sets rolled in napkins for guests. Bottled water and juice drinks capped off five long rows of tables for the nearly four hundred guests. XA Sweet & Savory Café in Huntington Beach is responsible for the delicious food served. Available was moist and delicious turkey, buttery sweet potatoes topped with toasted marshmallow, garlic string beans, chunky mashed red potatoes, hot gravy, freshly shucked corn, home-made stuffing, homemade-tart cranberry sauce with plenty of pumpkin pie. Two lines convened at the food serving tables, from either direction. Students and volunteers manned their positions to serve the guests. At one corner of the courtyard, students handed out free sleeping bags and hygiene kits. Professional barbers from PCH Barber Shop in Long Beach and The Outsiders Barber Shop of Bellflower, California generously donated several hours of their time to give free haircuts to the many women, men and children in attendance. The looks on the faces of two young boys were priceless, pure joy to be getting fresh fauxhawks!
The day was filled with positive energy. Ashley Fulmore, BSN student from cohort 24, shared that she “felt good giving back to the community, I’ve always wanted to give back because of all the homelessness occurring today, it made me appreciate my life and how fortunate I am to have always had a roof over my head and food to eat”. Ashley participated in serving food to guests, she greeted everyone with her warm smile and sincere energy. Lieu Dang Suss, Program Director for AUHS Foundation, shared that “although many of the people may not have had a place to go, they had a place to sit down at our Thanksgiving table at our Giving Thanks event. They were given a chance to clean up and possibly get ready for a job interview or maybe reach out to the family they’ve been estranged from, so, it was really a wonderful gift to them”. Overall, this yearly event, again, served as a reminder that the difference between the homeless men and women and those of us in better social positions may only be a matter of one’s ability to navigate life’s hardships. There is always a back story that is unknown. Pastor Johnson shared that “everyone doesn’t have someone that is going to come and get them, everyone doesn’t have someone to come and find them to take them someplace to get them cleaned up or restore them and that’s why God asks us to do it. Many people have been robbed, and to be robbed does not mean that they’ve been physically robbed, it can be that individuals have been spiritually robbed or spiritually abandoned and left on the wayside”.