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Hundreds Planning Something Special For Homeless And Needy

November 27, 1991

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ With Thanksgiving here and the holiday season approaching, Jack McDavid reminds himself of what stands between him and the estimated 20,000 people living on the streets of Philadelphia.

″If my restaurant were to go out of business, my family could be on the streets ourselves,″ said the 36-year-old father of two.

McDavid, who owns two eateries in the city, organized a network of food suppliers, hotels and restaurants to help the homeless and the needy this holiday season.

On Thanksgiving, McDavid plans to distribute meals with his family and his restaurant staff to about 250 elderly people who are homebound.

The menu includes turkey, cranberry sauce, apple pies, sweet potatoes - the traditional Thanksgiving fare.

″Holidays are not for what we can get,″ McDavid said. ″They’re for giving. They’re for sharing.″

Many private shelters, religious groups and community organizations have special events planned for Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season.

And they are relying on help from volunteers, some of whom used to be homeless themselves.

″People were always there for me,″ said Alonza Massie III, 34, recalling his years living on the streets. ″Now, I want to be able to do that for somebody else.″

Massie, who overcame his drug addiction and obtained an apartment in the city earlier this month, will be serving breakfast to the homeless Thursday morning with the Philadelphia Committee for the Homeless.

Phyllis Ryan, the committee’s director, said there is a tradition of sharing and giving during the holidays in almost all faiths.

Nevertheless, she said the contrast between the joy expressed by the well- to-do and the pressures facing those living on the streets may make the holiday season more painful for the homeless.

″Here’s this endless advertisement for the consumption of things we can do without,″ Ryan said. ″Yet some people don’t even have the minimum, such as a place of their own to go to.″

Ted Spaeth, director of the Salvation Army’s Eliza Shirley House, said holidays are a hard time for residents of his shelter, including those who are homeless, mentally ill or addicted to drugs or alcohol.

″They have good memories of better times in the past,″ he said. ″So we try to do what we can to cheer them up.″

The Salvation Army is planning a Thanksgiving meal, while others are conducting toy drives and hand-knitting scarfs to give during the upcoming holidays, Spaeth said.

Ryan said the homeless committee was trying something different by serving breakfast on Thanksgiving Day.

″A number of places are serving traditional dinners, so we are offering breakfast.″ Ryan said. ″All of us have an opportunity to overeat that day, so we figure a breakfast is a good way for the homeless to get an extra meal.″

Trevor’s Campaign for the Homeless is planning a turkey meal for 500 at Market Street Live, the restaurant owned by former Philadelphia Phillie Mike Schmidt.

The Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition and the Korean Community Development Services Center are distributing coupons for 600 turkey baskets through nearly 100 community organizations that serve Koreans, blacks, Hispanics and other minority groups.

Special Thanksgiving meals also are planned for those living in the city’s shelters.

Bernard McMillion, 36, a former homeless man who reestablished his life through a local self-help program, said he always felt good when people contributed their time during the holidays.

″I used to live on the streets too, and I would like them to see me today - to see that it’s possible to overcome homelessness,″ McMillon said about his decision to volunteer on Thursday.

Bill Dingfelder, 39, of Narberth, Montgomery County, said the holiday season has stimulated him to volunteer with Trevor’s Campaign.

″I thought Thanksgiving would be an appropriate time to begin helping,″ Dingfelder said, noting he would continue to volunteer year-round if all goes well Thursday.

Dingfelder, who works in the city, said it was easy to forget about the plight of the homeless and volunteering for them ″makes them human again.″

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