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Turkey Bash provides food, comfort

Erin Earl partners with Bagelmania to give the homeless a home for the holidays, if only for a short time.

November 25, 2013|By Beau Nicoloette
  • Erin Earl is putting on a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless and underprivileged in the parking lot of Bagelmania.
Erin Earl is putting on a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Erin Earl is throwing Turkey Bash 2013, a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless of Huntington Beach, but she is aiming to provide more than just a meal.

With the help of the owner of the Huntington Beach Bagelmania Coffeehouse, Earl hopes to create a sense of home and true holiday cheer to "give these people an experience that, if nothing else, makes them feel happy for a couple of hours."

"And you know when you feel better, when you feel happy for even a short time, it changes your outlook," she said. "Maybe they'll leave and they'll feel a little better about life."

Earl knows what effect such kindness can have during the holidays because she threw her first Turkey Bash in 2011 — the same year she edged toward homelessness.

While going through a tough divorce in 2010 and facing an unknown road ahead, Earl started walking along the San Gabriel River to clear her mind.

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As she walked, she began befriending the homeless who found refuge at the riverbed.

"I started opening my eyes and seeing the homeless population out there, which I never noticed before in my former world, and I was just strangely drawn ... to them," said Earl, who feared her own fate at the time.

As Earl waded through the divorce, she "needed to be away from" her husband and cut all ties, including financial ones. After 23 years of marriage, her family's home went up for sale.

"I was leaving my career and my own life and the comforts of all that I had," she said about her role as a pastor's wife, including the part she played in creating the church's musical offerings.

As the divorced was finalized, Earl was able to keep a roof over her head, but she and her 21-year-old son, who has autism, found themselves "kind of living a lifestyle of bouncing around from here to there."

It was not just the ever-looming possibility of homelessness that brought Earl closer to her friends on the riverbed, but the feeling of becoming a social outcast.

Her husband was a pastor and in divorcing him, she felt rejected by the church community of which she had long been at the center.

"Having been in that life for so long and then leaving it willfully, I was outcasted," she said. "So I not only was out of my home, I was out of community. I had no friends — I had nothing."

As Earl began her new life, the holidays approached and she said it was bothering her that the friends she had made on the San Gabriel River had no plans for festive celebrations.

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