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Youth Share Thanksgiving Meals

Thanksgiving can be a lonely time. Some teenagers are making sure elderly shut-ins get a taste of a traditional holiday meal and a visit from eager young cooks. This UMTV encore takes us to Centenary United Methodist Church located in the heart of the "Little Tokyo" area of Los Angeles, California. For several years, the youth have participated in a "turkey lock-in" sleepover that combines fun with service to others.


(Locator: Los Angeles, California)

(Knocking at door)

Walter Nishinaka: "Hi. Happy Thanksgiving. We have a turkey dinner for you."

Jim Kurita: "I wouldn't have any Thanksgiving if it weren't for these fellas with the church. We just appreciate what they're doing for us."

Darryl Ramos-Young: "Today is the day before Thanksgiving and it's our Turkey Lock-In."

Walter Nishinaka: "The Turkey Lock-In is a sleepover that we have for the youth in our church. What we do is assemble the turkey dinners for people who don't have families."

April Nishinaka, Centenary United Methodist Church: "We start the night before Thanksgiving. We prepare the turkeys, the stuffing…"

Nikki Young: "…the side stuff, so like, the gravy, the cranberry."

Caitlin O'Brien: "…and pumpkin squares."

Nikki Young: "Pumpkin squares."

Darryl Ramos-Young: "It's a full, traditional Thanksgiving meal with the turkey and all the fixings."

April Nishinaka: "And then, in like the morning, we finish preparing the food. And then package it."

Marissa Vensel: "We load up carts with the boxes of food and we walk them over to the shut-ins."

Darryl Ramos-Young: "They walk together, pushing their carts along the sidewalks and helping each other through the streets of Little Tokyo. One of the facilities is Tokyo Towers..."

Volunteer: "She wants to take a picture of you guys!"

Darryl Ramos-Young: "…a senior, subsidized residential facility."

Caitlin O'Brien: "So a lot of the people we drop the food off to don't speak English. But we still get the message that they're thankful."

(Woman bows as elevator closes) "Sayonara."

Darryl Ramos-Young: "The second facility is a low-income housing facility."

Staff person: "Thank you."

Walter Nishinaka: "That's why these lock-ins, they're really successful because we can work together. If we couldn't work together these things wouldn't be possible."

Walter Nishinaka: "Give me that one and Jess, you can follow me for that one."

The Rev. KarenFay Ramos-Young, Pastor, Centenary United Methodist Church: "All of the youth know that part of their faith journey is serving others. They have to roll up their sleeves and know that's part of praising God."

Jim Kurita: "Thank you very much."

Walter Nishinaka: "Happy Thanksgiving."

Jim Kurita: "Thank you."

Scott Nishinaka: "One of the things I was taught, at least in this church, was that everybody is family. And being able to reach out to people who may not necessarily have family can certainly feel it through us."

Marissa Vensel: "Getting a chance to be with the entire youth group for one day out of the year where we can help people but also bond."

Walter Nishinaka: "My sister showed me what to do, you know when it was my first lock-in and it was their last lock-in. That's our job as the older generation for this new generation of youth member is to show them. 'this is how it's done.'"

Darryl Ramos-Young: "Many families have their own traditions every year. Whether it's traveling to Grandma's house or being in charge of a certain dish…

(Group poses for photo)

Darryl Ramos-Young: "…Our church family has its own tradition and that's the Turkey Lock-In."


The youth group prepares nearly 100 Thanksgiving meals each year during the Turkey Lock-In. Church members donate the ingredients.

For more information, contact Centenary United Methodist Church at 213-617-9097.

This video was produced by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, TN.

This story was first published on November 29, 2011.