Class Helps Recovery Group Celebrate Thanksgiving

Judy Del Castillo

‘Tis the season for giving.
While most people have been careful with their pocketbooks during this economic slump, it should not be reason alone to forgo the holiday spirit this year.

When a sociology class at GCC wanted to do something nice for a needy family on Thanksgiving, it decided to donate a Thanksgiving feast to a rehabilitation center in Carson.

“It was [fellow classmate] Lisa Harris’ idea to collect money for needy families,” said Evelyn Tan, a student in her last semester to receiving a certificate for alcohol and drug counseling. “When Professor Charles Barlow asked the class if they knew of any needy families, nobody raised their hands. So I raised my hand and told them about the facility.”

The Palm House, which receives funding from the County of Los Angeles, became a nonprofit organization in 1978, two years after a group of Filipinos and Asians from Carson and neighboring cities were faced with a growing number of alcohol and drug abusers, but there were no programs that existed at the time to serve the diversity of their cultures.

“The Palm House is a residential facility for alcohol and drug addictions,” said Tan, who has interned at the Palm House for the last six months as a counselor.

“They get their residents, mostly from Prop 36, from the court. But [funding for] Prop 36 was cut so they’re having a hard time. They laid off several people and they’re trying to cut down on expenses.”

Prop 36, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, gives first-time nonviolent drug possession offenders the opportunity to get treatment for substance abuse instead of imprisonment.

The entire Sociology 101 class of just under 40 students, collected more than $150, which was used to purchase one ham and two turkey dinners.

“Right now, [Palm House] has 11 residents,” said Tan. “The dinner was for the staff, the residents and a few of their families. They use food stamps for food, so I just added on to it. They ate it for two days. There was a lot of food.”

Harris, 28, who has a bio-physiology degree, said she came up with the idea while reading a chapter in her sociology book about homelessness and how it affects millions of Americans today. “Even our teacher said we should do something for the needy, and since Thanksgiving was coming up, we thought, why not do something about it now?” she said.

The entire class received a card from the Palm House residents thanking the class for their generosity. The Palm House center was not available to comment due to confidentiality.

“I want to help people and [alcohol and drug counseling] is a good place to start,” said Tan. “It’s often the source of the misery, and [by donating for Thanksgiving]
I don’t want to make a big deal out of it.”

“I didn’t really want to make it known, but I really just wanted to do something for others and put some food together, and everyone in my class collected money,” added Harris. “It was really successful and I’m really, really proud of my class.”

After all, doing something nice for others is its own reward.