Giving away "hope for free," St. Anthony's traditional Thanksgiving feast draws crowds

The St. Anthony’s Foundation's traditional Thanksgiving feast served nearly 3,000 meals in San Francisco’s Tenderloin on Thursday, as the charitable organization served a warm meal to those in need.

"Everybody lines up for my gravy," one of the volunteers boasted as families lined up to collect food.

With the support of 80 volunteers, their dining room at the corner of Jones Street and Golden Gate Avenue was packed with people filling their bellies with turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing and blueberry crumble.

"Being out on the streets, we’re grateful to have this organization to offer us warm meals every day and today’s a holiday, so they went out of their way for us," said Cecilia Amaya, who was standing in line for the meal.

"Last year on Thanksgiving, I was on the streets. I was so drugged out, I couldn’t even come eat, but now I’m back with my family again," said David Wheat, who works at Guest Relations for St. Anthony’s. 

He said thanks to the support and services at St. Anthony’s Foundation, he is in the recovery program and now helps others who were in his shoes.

"It fills your heart up, like somebody cares. St. Anthony’s gives away hope for free," Wheat said with a grin.

For regular volunteers like Mark Deshazo, there’s nowhere else they’d rather be on Thanksgiving.

"You see people with nothing telling you how blessed they feel," said Deshazo, who has been volunteering twice a week for the last seven years.

"A lot of our guests are lonely this time of year, and we look them in the eyes, we engage with them, and we provide a sense of community," said Interim CEO at St. Anthony’s Bryan Young.

St. Anthony’s dishes out trays of food on a daily basis, but on Thanksgiving, there are lines out the door and around the corner.

"The world is really stressful, and to know that there’s something I can do to make a difference when I come here, I feel like I actually can do something," said Deshazo.

The kitchen staff prepared for this day for three weeks, serving 3,300 pounds of turkey, 700 pounds of potatoes, nearly 1,800 pounds of blueberry crumble, 120 gallons of gravy, and 200 portions of vegetarian options, all in the spirit of generosity.

"It’s a good boost to help you get back on your feet and make it out on your own," said Amaya.

St. Anthony's Foundation also provides free clothing, hygiene services, healthcare, and transitional employment opportunities. 

St. Anthony’s is looking for volunteers through the new year. For information on how you can help, visit