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Giving, and giving thanks

Crowd for annual free Thanksgiving meal doubles

Posted: November 27, 2008 7:10 p.m.
Updated: November 28, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Kacie Nielson, 8, from Newhall passes out stuffing during the annual Thanksgiving Day dinner held at the Newhall Bicycle shop on Railroad Avenue.

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Here's how the whole Thanksgiving Day thing works: You give.

It's that simple, says the man who runs a bicycle shop in Newhall and who, once a year, feeds as many people as he can.

"Matthew 25:35 tells you what to do," Roger Hasper said between hugs given by men and women, old people and children, who stopped to thank him personally.

"I'm not a smart man. I just know how to take directions," he said, referring to the Scripture.

More than 300 people gathered at the back of his bicycle shop on Railroad Avenue and Market Street - double the number that showed up there last year.

"As long as one person shows up and gets fed, I'd be happy," he said.

A lot has changed in a year.

The economy has taken a heavy toll on many Santa Clarita families.

"People wouldn't guess that there are Santa Clarita families living in their cars," said Linda Malerba, director of Lutheran Social Services in Santa Clarita Valley.

This year, she and her group that care daily for the homeless joined Hasper for the first time in helping people in need on Thanksgiving Day.

People holding paper plates waited in line at the rows of cooking trays piled high with steaming sliced turkey, dressing and mashed potatoes.

Last year, Hasper and his family set out 10 long tables for the community to come and eat, no questions asked. This year, they put out 22 tables that were quickly filled.

"It's the economy," said Hasper's wife Shannon. "People don't have the means to provide a nice Thanksgiving dinner for their family. We have to take care of our community.

"No one else is going to do it," she said.

Her son Elijah, 10, looked up at his mother as she explained this year's unprecedented turnout.
He knows how the whole Thanksgiving Day thing works.

"It's to make God smile," he said.

Acts of kindness only build, his father said, because when you give, the people to whom you give give back in return.

"People are innately good," he said.

Take 11-year-old Bailey Corona.

Last year, he earned community service hours for school serving food at Hasper's Thanksgiving Day feast.
He loved it and returned with a plan.

"He woke up the other morning and said, ‘I'm going to contact all the newspapers and TV people.' And, then he went online and did his own video for this event," said his mother, D'ette Corona, noting that her son e-mailed producers at CNN and Fox News.

"Last year, he was required to do community service hours here," she said. "He and the other boys said they were going to come back. They said it was amazing."

This year, Bailey Corona recruited his neighbor Cole Druschen, 11, and his cousin, Jeremy Robart, 6, to help him serve drinks at the feast.

"My sister and her son had been involved and they told us about it," said Jeremy's mother, Courtney Robart.

"I thought it would be a good thing to teach my son that there are people who don't have as much as he has," she said. "It makes you feel good to help."

Jeremy's grandmother, Kris Byron, completed the picture of three generations helping and sharing.

"I'm so proud of my daughters and my grandchildren," she said. "It makes you feel good to know you raised such good children."

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