Photos by Andrew Boone/Santa Monica College

More than a thousand families from the local community left Santa Monica College Tuesday with holiday meals consisting of fresh turkey, pumpkin pie and more as a result of the inaugural Giving Thanks(giving) drive-thru event.

Institutions and community organizations from throughout Santa Monica joined together to make the event possible to ensure local students and families would have a delicious and nutritious meal this Thanksgiving holiday. The feast boxes were distributed through a contactless drive-thru-style pick up that was made possible by the 200 volunteers who — with smiles under face coverings and face shields — worked to ensure a safe experience for all participants.

“The event started as a very small event in my backyard. Literally with my family and friends in the community hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for families in need, specifically for foster youth and homeless students, veterans and international students,” said Santa Monica College Foundation President Lizzy Moore, who headed the efforts in recent weeks. “And then, when we weren’t able to host a backyard Thanksgiving this year, we decided we had to do something.”

Moore and her peers from the City of Santa Monica, college and its foundation got the idea to partner with the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica, Police Assistance League and Community Corporation of Santa Monica to give the community all of the makings they’d need to craft their own Thanksgiving meal. “And it became this enormous event,” she said, detailing the drive-thru and walk-up stations as well as the available fixings that were being handed out the 1,455 families who attended Tuesday’s event.

“We had such a huge response. It kind of blew our mind. And we didn’t really know how it would go because we’ve never done anything on this scale… We feed students every week through the food pantry but that’s between two- and three-hundred students a week. Now, we’re expected to do more than a thousand,” Moore said. “But it’s been so great to see everybody happy and excited to share the holiday cheer. These are all employees working today and they all made this happen.”

SMC President Kathryn Jeffery said even the most conservative estimates depict the number of households without dependable access to nutritious food has, at the very least, doubled, which is why she feels proud to see the collaborative effort occur on the local campus.

Interim City Manager Lane Dilg, who stopped by Tuesday’s event, agreed with the sentiment.

“This Thanksgiving, we have an opportunity to lift up local families in need and remember the joy that generosity and gratitude bring,” Dilg said. “Santa Monica thrives when we help each other. This is one of many chances to give in a year when we must, more than ever before, come together as a community.”

Moore added she absolutely feels it necessary to hold a similar event in the future.

“We couldn’t have done this without the contributions of literally the thousands of people who donated to the Giving Thanksgiving fund,” Moore said. “So thanks to all of our patrons who were able to do that and we’re looking forward to more opportunities to help out.”