SAN DIEGO (CBS 8/CNS) - More than 1,800 people attended the Salvation Army's 33rd annual Thanksgiving Dinner at Golden Hall in downtown San Diego Thursday.
More than 300 volunteers were on staff serve the meals beginning at 11:30 a.m. in the Civic Center complex at 202 C St.
"We welcome everyone and it is our great pleasure to provide them with a warm Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls and even pumpkin pie," said Major George Baker, divisional commander of The Salvation Army.
The tradition began when area philanthropist Joan Kroc donated $12,000 to rent the expansive ballroom for a large community dinner so no one would be alone on Thanksgiving. She died in October 2003 at the age of 75.
Kroc, the wife of McDonald's founder and ex-Padres owner Ray Kroc, continued to fund the event and often served meals herself. Guests include seniors with no other place to go, struggling working families, single parents, the homeless and often those who are simply alone on a day of fellowship.
The Salvation Army will also serve a Thanksgiving meal at its Corps Community Center in Oceanside, 3935 Lake Blvd., beginning at 11 a.m.
Separately, around 300 low-income seniors will receive a Thanksgiving meal from the nonprofit Serving Seniors. The event begins at 11:15 a.m. at the Serving Seniors facility at 1525 Fourth Ave.
Wednesday night the Thanksgiving holiday came early for hundreds of San Diegans as traditional Thanksgiving meals were served up at Father Joe's Villages. For some, it was the first Thanksgiving meal they have had in years.
This year, 150 turkeys, 266 pies and 3,200 slices of bread for stuffing were donated.
For Diane and her family it has been over a year since they had a Thanksgiving meal. Her husband is a veteran and her son is autistic. A year ago they were living on the streets.
"This was just marvelous," she said. Wednesday Diane found out she and her family will be moving into their own home next week.
At Father Joe's, 700 residents ate an early Thanksgiving meal with the help of 90 volunteers.
Also today, the nonprofit Mama's Kitchen will distribute nearly 1,400 pies to 21 pickup sites -- include 19 Wells Fargo branches -- for its annual
"Pie in the Sky'' bake sale fundraiser.
Mama's Kitchen provides home-delivered food for victims of HIV/AIDS and cancer, and estimates that the cost of each pie pays for seven meals. An additional 1,300 or so pies were shipped out to private locations on Tuesday.
Most pies have already been ordered by customers, but a limited amount will be on sale today for $25 by calling (619) 233-6262.