The Silicon Valley Voice

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Santa Clara’s Community Thanksgiving More Than Just a Turkey Dinner

The tables are festively decorated with autumn arrangements, there’s a hum of happy conversation, and savory aromas emanate from steaming platters of turkey and dressing. It could be any Thanksgiving dinner at any home in the country. But this one is for 300 guests right here in Santa Clara.

For six years, three generations of the Marsalli family have made it their mission to build a community Thanksgiving that shares the abundance of the holiday with all the varied strands of our community.

For weeks now, the Marsalli clan and a growing team of dedicated volunteers have been planning and preparing to serve a dinner that’s as homelike as possible – including family recipes for roast turkey and vegetables. On Nov. 28, they’ll be at their posts in St. Clare’s kitchen – some as early as 6:00 a.m.

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There’s a practical Christianity in this. One that makes a sharp contrast with the condemnatory Christianity of the religious right. Some of you might be familiar with the Kitchen Prayer attributed to St. Teresa of Avila: “Lord of all pots and pans and things, since I’ve no time to be a great saint by doing lovely things, or watching late with Thee, or dreaming in the dawn light, or storming heaven’s gates, make me a saint by getting meals, and washing up the plates.”

Certainly, the Marsallis, longtime St. Clare’s parishioners, are virtuoso practitioners of pots-and-pans evangelism.

The dinner got its start in 2007 in a conversation between Larry Marsalli and his daughter. “We all have Thanksgiving every day,” he recalls saying. “I’d like to do something for people who don’t have that.”

Certainly, many in Silicon Valley are enjoying that Thanksgiving Every Day, with startups again flush with venture capitalists’ cash, new stock offerings minting new millionaires weekly, and the rate of new construction up to a 13-year high, according to Tuesday’s Mercury News.

A few weeks ago the U.S. census bureau found that, when you consider living costs into the equation, California has the highest rate of poverty in the U.S. – that one in four state residents could be considered poor. And a recent study by the Public Policy Institute pegged the poverty rate in Silicon Valley at nearly 20 percent – one in five residents.

And many of us know anecdotally that many of our friends and neighbors were hit hard by the economic depression of the last decade, and have never recovered. Careers, homes, and self-sufficiency have been lost – and it’s anything but clear whether the emerging boom will rebuild any of those.

And that reality makes Santa Clara’s Community Thanksgiving an important symbol. By being together we’re reminded, as author Charles Dickens put it, we are all “fellow-passengers…and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

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