Las Vegas Sun

July 25, 2014

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Hundreds feed homeless downtown during Gobble Gobble Give event

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Ana Ley

Brent Kassens dines on a Thanksgiving meal served this morning at Fremont and 6th streets in Las Vegas.

Brent Kassens sat on a black trash bag on Fremont Street, his frail legs cradling a Styrofoam plate filled with turkey and trimmings.

The hot Thanksgiving meal, served this morning during a volunteer event dubbed Gobble Gobble Give was a welcome gift for Kassens, who has been homeless in Las Vegas for more than two decades.

“I love the hell of it,” said Kassens, 58.

More than 500 volunteers gathered in the parking lot of Backstage Bar & Billiards at Fremont and 6th streets, loading vehicles with donated food and other necessities to deliver to the needy.

Las Vegas event coordinator Adan Van Dam said 1,500 meals were prepared for the event, which has been held in Las Vegas for the past four years.

Gobble Gobble Give was started 15 years ago in Echo Park, Calif., by Barry Walker, who wanted to have a Thanksgiving pot luck for the homeless in his neighborhood. Friends eventually began holding a similar events in Santa Monica, Calif., New York, Austin, Texas, San Francisco and Las Vegas. The volunteers provide food, toiletries, clothing and other basic items for the homeless.

They cook turkey dinners the night before and sort the donations. On the day of the event, the volunteers hop on their bikes, get in their cars, or simply walk down the street to hand everything out.

Organizers said volunteers helped more than 10,000 homeless people last year in all locations combined.

“It started 15 years ago with nine meals,” Walker said. “It’s just spread through outreach.”

Michael Licata, a first-time volunteer in Las Vegas, said the event inspired him to help the needy more regularly.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” Licata said. “I gave a ski jacket to a man in a wheelchair and he started crying. I had to walk away. I was ashamed — I have a good life, and it’s time to do what I can to help others.”

Thomas Nichols, the man in the wheelchair, said it was “the grandest thing I’ve ever seen.”

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