Annual Community Thanksgiving Day Meal

Call to collaborative action ::

  • Narrative introduction | "Muscle memory compassion"

  • Slide show of past meal experiences and collaboration

  • Description of needs : volunteer jobs & donations

  • online form to fill out to help as a volunteer



I find myself overwhelmed with the deluge of terrible news: hurricanes, the violence related to tribalism and politics, the fires across our state, and our housing crisis.  Thanks to technology and my smart phone addiction, the pictures are too present and too vivid. The endless news-cycle is completely overwhelming. While I wholly recognize my privilege in terms of safety, a home, and enough to eat, I feel the trauma that plagues much of our culture and nation.  Some people talk of burnout or compassion fatigue, pointing to the challenge we face to have the courage to hope and heal.  How do we be present to that and not be overwhelmed by it?  Whatever path we choose it must be reality-based, a muscular response that involves all of our beings, not just a depersonalized swipe or dehumanizing click.  


The holiday season beginning this month, going through the new year is one in which our altruism is awakened or renewed.  We’re more willing to lend a hand.  We’re more eager to help our neighbors. We’re more ready to give of our money and time. The opportunities for agency within our own city of Oakland are legion.  And many also exist right here in North Oakland.  One of those opportunities is the annual free Thanksgiving Community Meal at College Avenue Presbyterian Church.


For over 35 years, the CAPC Oakland community has been hosting a neighborhood-empowered annual Thanksgiving Day Community Meal. The brainchild of a College Avenue merchant, birthed when the Rockridge Community was emerging from the shadow of the neighborhood transformation caused by the building of Highway 24 and the BART Station, the meal continues to provides a space for community creation, solidarity and relationship-building.  It makes a place for us to use our skills, resources and time to serve others: renewing our muscle memory of compassion, altruism, and empathy.


This Thanksgiving, College Avenue Presbyterian Church will again be hosting its annual Thanksgiving Day Community Meal on Thanksgiving Day, November 22nd from 11am-1pm at 5951 College Avenue. The meal is a joint project with diverse members of our Rockridge Community, involving congregational members, local merchants and local residents. In the emotional exhaustion of today, it is an opportunity for us to gather as a community to respond to the needs of those struggling with hunger, solitude and joblessness. The meal generally serves between 200-300 people with a multitude of volunteers gathered in the shared desire to make this event possible. The meal is open and free for everyone.  


Donations of money and food are gratefully accepted. It’s because of such donations that the meal takes place. You can also give of your time. Help is needed beginning Tuesday, November 20th and Wednesday the 21st to prepare, set-up and decorate the church gym for the meal. Significant help is needed the day of the event to set-up, cook, serve and also clean-up.  The latter requires the most work and often is the one the least amount of people want to do!


Visit the Thanksgiving Meal page on the church website at [you're already there!] to sign up for a volunteer slot or to make a donation via PayPal ----- scroll down to do so; or contact the church office at or (510) 658-3665. 

- Rev. Monte McClain


HOW YOU CAN HELP We need help to

Help the meal take shape : This year we're trying to organize things differently to involve our wider community in the meal effort, not just the week and day of thanksgiving, but in general and overall. The meal is about feeding people, responding to the hungers of the homed and homeless; and also responding to the hungers of various people to give back, pay grace forward, be part of a relational network using our powers for good here in Oakland.  Any and all people who want to help in this capacity are invited to join us for an early organizing meeting at CAPC Oakland in the sanctuary.  This will be a time shaped with including and empowering children (down to elementary school age) as well: 

  • Tuesday, October 16, 7:00pm at our place - 5951 College Ave, 94618

Prepare the meal in advance : cutting up vegetables, peeling potatoes, prepping pots, pans, etc.  This is work that can be done by adults and children, and requires no advanced cooking skills.

When you come Tuesday or Wednesday evenings look for Lina Foltz (Tuesday) and/or Richard Wong (Wednesday) who will orient you to the work that needs to be done.

  • the evening of Tuesday, November 20 - 7-9pm in the church kitchens

  • the evening of Wednesday, November 21 - 7-9pm in the church kitchens

The day of Thanksgiving and the meal :  this includes plating food, decorating the gym, setting up tables and chairs, serving the meal and drinks, welcoming guests, eating with those who come, and also cleaning up at the end.  We generally have three shifts or "windows" during which we invite people to come and help:

When you come Thursday look for Louise Hirschman our community organizer who will orient you to the work that needs to be done. Cam Beatty and Ellen Brylawski are heading up the clean-up crew. So look for them if you’re coming to help with that.

  • early set up & decorating - 6am-10am - in the gym

  • welcoming, seating and serving folks 10:30am-1:00pm -

  • clean-up (can start during the meal) 12:30pm-2:00pm

We also need financial help.  This annual event costs roughly $750-$1,000 to make happen.   We estimate that $3.00 pays for a thanksgiving meal with all the fixins per person. Part of our church budget is allocated to empowering this community gathering event, we also take tax deductible financial contributions from local merchants, non-profits and residents. We have two options which you can use to donate financially: 


  • You can mail a check to our office at 5951 College Ave, Oakland CA 94618 (be sure to make it payable to CAPC Oakland, but with a memo note "Thanksgiving Meal"


  • You also can give directly online safely through paypal to make the meal possible. Click on the DONATE link below to be safely redirected to the paypal site.