Teens offer homeless 5-star service on Thanksgiving

Several tables dressed in black linens, poinsettias and ornament centerpieces lined the side of Shellmound Street near Aquatic Park. 

Silver chairs from the Marriott were placed around with seat cushions. Fine China from a mother’s cabinet lay on metallic charger plates. 

It was an extravagant set up for a Thanksgiving dinner, that caught the guests who live across the street by surprise. 

“I forgot it was Thanksgiving. I absolutely had no idea that anybody was coming,” said Sebastian Bloom, who has lived in tent across the street since June.

“Thankfully, they did show up, because I was going to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and listen to the radio.”

Aaliyah Washington and her mother Edna started feeding the homeless years ago. 

“I was homeless for a while and my grandmother was homeless,” said Washington.

“Since we’re in the Bay Area, we know the homeless population is increasing. Me and my family have noticed that people on the streets are not getting love.”

Today, her classmates at Oakland School for the Arts are her core group of volunteers. 

“As the years went on, all of us from school started helping her every year,” said Genesis Chambers, who lead the table design. 

“This is our last year because we’re all seniors, so her nieces are going to continue this thing with Edna.”

The students received donations from the Richmond Marriott and the organizations Christmas In Richmond and Richmond PAL, and meals were made by friends and family. 

The first guests to feast were sat down at the table and had their hands washed like ancient royalty. They were served by black pant and white shirt student waiters. 

“It’s actually really warming my heart the fact that I started something that my fellow friends can do,” said Washington. 

“It just allows me to see that I can make a difference and I want my niece and my nephews to understand that they can also make a difference.”

A few homeless hesitated to join, because of the news crews, so KTVU left before the meals were served and the guests could dine in private. 

The senior volunteers lead their last Thanksgiving dinner by setting these beautiful tables, but they also set an example for the next generation to continue the tradition.