On a sunny Nov. 18, the Don Bosco Tech campus was abuzz with prospective students and their families visiting the Rosemead high school for open house. The marching band provided music, food booths and information tables were set up on a grassy field, and families and young students wandered the classrooms and asked questions of their student guides.But in the nearby gym, a different scene was taking place. An assembly line was efficiently creating ham sandwiches by the hundreds. Blankets and toiletry kits were packed and passed along fireman-style to be loaded into a huge truck. Boxes were being broken down. Brown paper bags outnumbered the more than 150 volunteers who came to be a part of this annual tradition, aptly dubbed “Thanksgiving Goodness,” which feeds thousands on L.A.’s Skid Row. This year, the crew distributed 3,500 meals along with blankets and care packages to the homeless.Now, in its fifth year, this grass-roots volunteer effort has been organized by Bosco alum Anthony Rodriguez (class of ’99) who has been paying it forward with many of his former classmates, family, friends and co-workers who like the idea of keeping their hands busy and their hearts open. The event is traditionally held the Sunday before Thanksgiving.A natural-born organizer who has always been interested in philanthropy (he’s played cards with seniors and coordinated Christmas parties for orphanages among others), Rodriguez first conceived the idea of feeding the homeless from a personal story.“My uncle was homeless for 20 years and often we, as a family, would keep in touch with him through visits,” he said. “We always made it a point to try to especially find him around the holidays.” (His uncle did manage to get off living on the streets before he passed away last year.)Five years ago, Rodriguez invited his friends and family to prepare and distribute meals to downtown’s homeless. “I think there were seven of us and we fed about 100,” he said, adding that the simplicity of preparing and handing out brown bag meals was appealing to others who heard about their endeavor.All the supplies, materials and ingredients for the meals and care packages come from individual donations. Through email and his “Ripple of Compassion” Facebook page, he organizes and assigns folks to bring certain items: bread, meat, bottled water, etc. “No one gets a tax write-off,” he said. “We do this to do this.”Bosco alum Kris German was part of that initial circle which has since expanded thanks to a website, texts, emails and social media. “I’m so glad that we come back here to Bosco to do this,” he said as he surveyed the busy-ness around him which included his children helping pack supplies. “My education here really instilled in me a sense of reaching out and that we’re really ‘Our Brother’s Keeper.’”“I really wanted my children to come and see how we can take care of others,” noted Jessica Abrego, a newbie to the event, along with her three- and four-year-olds Aurelia and Audrey. “I plan to do this every year. It’s such a simple thing and doesn’t take that much time out of the day. Plus, the girls are having the time of their lives.”The move from Rodriquez’s garage to the expansive Don Bosco gym for the event was made possible by another of Rodriguez’s former classmates, Miguel Flores who is now Dean of Student Life and Youth Ministry Coordinator at the school. “We want to support our alumni with this event because it reflects on us as a school, how our alumni are leaders in the community,” said Flores. “Our current students participate in a variety of community service projects and for them to see this, they think, ‘Oh, that’s what I get to do when I graduate.’ Natural progression. You don’t stop giving.”In addition to the meals being distributed, volunteers also hand out care packages — toothbrushes, socks, mouthwash, etc. — along with blankets, thanks to another philanthropic organization, Quilted Hugs.“This is our third year of collecting and distributing blankets,” said organizer Marlyn Hermosillo who partnered with Thanksgiving Goodness to hand out a supply of blankets to the homeless. Watching the bustling activity around her, she smiled.“It’s a great feeling to be here,” she said. “Everyone wants to help, but so often, they don’t know how. Here is a simple way to make a change.”When the truck was packed and ready to roll, Rodriguez and a small crew traveled to the streets of downtown Los Angeles to distribute care packages and meals near San Pedro and Fifth Streets, in the heart of Skid Row. “It tugs at your heartstrings to see these folks, many who are unemployed or down on their luck,” he said. “Many of them suffer from drug addiction and aren’t able to cope being in a home. It’s very sad.”Southern California winters can be a cold, lonely place for the homeless. “I’m thankful for the blessings of every day,” continues Rodriguez. “I hope that people who come to help today see how they can make a difference. I hope this leads to other ripples of compassion. There is an awful lot of work to be done.” {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/1130/sgbosco/{/gallery}