Instead of a promised sunrise breakfast on the beach Saturday morning, some members of Marquita Thomas’ bridal party were surprised to find themselves at the Ventura County Rescue Mission in Oxnard serving breakfast to families.
“They tricked us. They said we were going to the beach, but I knew we were going in the wrong direction,” said Stella Hwang, who lives in Culver City and had to get up at 5:15 a.m. to meet with her friends for a day of festivities in Oxnard.
Thomas said she was surprised to find out that her maid of honor had planned to have the group host a special breakfast where eight or nine families were treated not only to food, but also to a wide assortment of goods, from laundry detergent and hygiene items to Halloween costumes.
“My friends and I usually take on some kind of charity as a group of women,” Thomas said as she held a package of toilet paper that was being given away.
Thomas said her wedding to Henry Otineru is planned for Oct. 21 at the Embassy Suites and comes after seven years of dating the man who is also her best friend.
“It was the right thing to do,” she said, adding that a bridal shower day “usually is all about the bride, but when I heard stories of people wishing for everyday necessities, I was so glad to be doing this.”
Thomas said her bridal party is made up of friends she has known since they went to school together at Fremont Middle School, followed by Oxnard High School.
Maid of honor Nichole Latimer said she came up with the idea of doing something that involved community service “because that’s who Marquita is. She’s always giving back to charities. This is the inner Marquita.”
Latimer explained that after serving breakfast to the families seated at tables covered with burgundy tablecloths and strewn with rose petals, the brides were going to take a party bus to Universal CityWalk to enjoy dinner and a night of “careless fun.”
Suzanne West, spokeswoman for the Ventura County Rescue Mission, told the women that many of the items being offered to the families may appear to be basic necessities and not very exciting, but they were badly needed.
West explained that when people take an event such as a bridal shower and turn it into a philanthropic effort, it helps the mission better serve the community.
At its Sixth Street facility, the mission provides a faith-based recovery program for men that includes teaching culinary arts in a fully equipped commercial kitchen that is largely used to prepare two meals daily for those in need.
Ramon Naranjo, who works at an aerospace company spraying parts, struggles to support his girlfriend and their four children. So the hot meals served at the mission ensure his family is fed, while allowing him to put more money toward rent and transportation costs.
“We come here all the time for lunch and dinner. But the big help is diapers,” Navajo said, explaining his day-to-day challenges. “Many mornings, I wake up early and walk the streets hoping that someone dropped some money. Even a dollar would help.”
The breakfast produced by the Rescue Mission kitchen was extra special: an egg soufflé with smoked applewood bacon, caramelized Maui onions, fresh spinach and mushrooms and a light tarragon béchamel sauce, served with home-style potatoes, orange juice and coffee.
The goods were given away during a shopping experience during which one adult from each family went through a room stacked with various items accompanied by a personal attendant from the bridal party who helped them pick things out and juggle the many bags full of things for their families.
Marvin Reyes, a Rescue Mission resident who was helping organize the party, said seeing such generosity from people in the community helps him in his struggle to overcome the alcohol and drug addictions that have left his “life burnt to the ground.”
Reyes said there is more to charity than just giving. He gets a lot in return.
“I’m thinking about everybody else,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of time to worry about myself and all of my problems.”
Click Here to read the article published in the Ventura Star on October 1st.