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Someone with us

Soup kitchen remembers its late founder and prepares enough food to serve 1,200 patrons. Its first holiday dinner served 30 people.

November 22, 2007|By Sue Thoensen

Shannon Santos believes her late grandmother, Merle Hatleburg, was watching over the group gathered in the Someone Cares soup kitchen Thanksgiving day.

This is the first Thanksgiving dinner without the woman who founded the soup kitchen more than 21 years ago. While Santos admitted it was really hard for her, she said she and many volunteers felt a special presence.

In prior years, everyone was always on the go and anxious about the preparations underway.

Not this year, Santos said.

“There’s such a sense of peace, and I know it’s because she’s looking over and providing for us right now.”

The line outside the door of Someone Cares began forming early Thursday.

Between noon and 3 p.m., more than 500 people were expected to be served a meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and all the fixings.

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The bulk of that food had been prepared Tuesday in the parking lot of the Five Feet restaurant in Laguna Beach, by chef-owner Michael Kang and about 40 volunteers.

He sets up, adjacent to the restaurant, a tent that houses propane ovens to cook the turkeys; this year’s feast involved cooking 120 turkeys, 300 pounds of potatoes, 20 gallons of gravy and three cases of stuffing.

Daniel Sussman is the “sauté guy,” having worked his way up in the volunteer ranks from potato peeler, the position at which he started more than seven years ago.

Sussman is in charge of the stuffing, sautéing celery, onion and mushrooms in butter before adding bread, salt, pepper and chicken broth.

He does that, he said, by mushing it together with “lots of love and clean hands.”

As soon as the turkeys are roasted and carved, and the rest of the food is prepared, the volunteers place it on trays and box it up so it can be delivered to Someone Cares on Wednesday.

Kang has been involved with Someone Cares for the past 15 years and joked that there are so many volunteers in the kitchen now, he doesn’t have a job anymore.

His two teenage sons were among the volunteers helping out, reflecting an attitude their father has passed along.

“I want to do as much as I can, and this is very little as far as I’m concerned. I’m just giving back,” Kang said.

Before the blessing, Santos asked for a moment of silence to remember her grandmother.

“Without her, this would not have been possible.”

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