Culinary students give

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Written by Yvette Alvarez

RCC Culinary Academy cooks up Thanksgiving meal for the homeless

Men, women, and children stood in line with eager stomachs. About 457 people signed in to receive a meal, Nov. 24 as Riverside City College Culinary Academy held a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless and less fortunate.

The dinner, which began at 11 a.m. and ended at 1 p.m., was estimated to have fed more than 500 people in total.

This is the 13th year the Culinary Academy has participated in this event and they received donations from the Economic Development Agency, Riverside Women’s Club, RCC management, faculty and staff.

Chef Bobby Moghaddam, executive director of RCC’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts program, organized this event, along with Wendy Merlino and Laura Harris from the EDA. 

“We get help from the EDA, they provided most of the money, people from the college gave us  money . . . and also the Women’s Club gave me (a) twenty-five hundred dollar check,” said Moghaddam.

Weeks prior, Moghaddam sent out an email asking for funds from anyone who could possibly donate. Their goal was to raise at least $1,600 enough to feed 500 people, a goal they did meet. The money left over was put into a student account towards next year’s dinner.

The meal, consisting of turkey, bread, salad, sweet and mashed potatoes, was cooked by the students of the Culinary Academy, mainly juniors and seniors. Freshmen students worked the floor, as they attended to every person’s needs.

“I’ve been helping out in Thanksgiving for 28 years,” said Bruce Dickinson, a freshmen at the Culinary Academy. “I was homeless on Skid Row 29 years ago and I was able to get out of it. I’ve been sober now 28 years, but I still give back any chance I get.”

Dickinson explains that he was a previous restaurant owner and cook, but he had never received proper training in the culinary arts. His wife encouraged him to go back to school and learn everything he could.

“Being one of the oldest students in his class, for me to sit here and look at this and see some people getting a meal that they may only get one a day, it might be their only real meal this week,” Dickinson said. “I look at their faces, all you have to do is look at their faces.”

Several hands went into participating and volunteering in this event. People from the EDA along with students from

the culinary program worked the floor, grabbing drinks for people. Clothing was also donated to anyone who might need it.

Those who attended this dinner left with smiles and memories.

“All the people here are so great they got some very, very big hearts and did you see how lively they were?” said Sandra “Smiley” Alvarez, an attendee of the event. “I met some people in such high spirits and you know what I always want to be happy, I never let nothing get me down, nothing.”

Alvarez said that she has been attending this event for the past five years and it is a tradition of hers. Throughout the years, she has met kind people who she said she’s thankful for.

“Everybody is so polite, all the workers and I want to thank all the workers because it’s a lot of hard work,” Alvarez said. “It’s a blessing that there’s still people out there who care because this is a dog-eat-dog world.”

Alvarez shared her personal story of struggle, explaining that she lost her son to murder 15 years ago. She said her son’s favorite holiday was Thanksgiving because she raised him to be thankful for everything he had.

“I wasn’t rich, but I give my kids a lot of love and you can’t put a price tag on that,” Alvarez said.

Toward the end of the event, Moghaddam shared his thoughts on this event.

“Well I’m very happy to serve the community, it is a part of our mission to help the people and also help the needy.”

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