Every year a few days before Thanksgiving, hundreds of Boyle Heights residents are visited by pop culture icon Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Hollenbeck Youth Center on 1st Street.
The one-time Governor of California hands out turkeys and other food goods as part of the organization’s “Miracle on 1st Street” event, which was held Monday. The auditorium was transformed into a winter wonderland: A giant inflatable Santa towered over volunteers and attendees while the real-life Santa floated around the event. Chants of “¡Pavo!” filled the auditorium as Schwarzenegger greeted turkey recipients.
One man who was accompanying a woman remarked to Schwarzenegger that she attends “Miracle on 1st Street” each year to see him. “I know, I know,” Schwarzenegger said playfully. Later on, an elderly woman approached him with a warm smile on her face.
“Hasta la vista, baby,” the “Terminator” film franchise star said to her as the pair exchanged goodbyes.
This is the 42nd year that Hollenbeck Youth Center has hosted Miracle on 1st Street. The non-profit, which provides youth programs for local Eastside youth, hosts the event with the LA Sheriff’s Department.
Before the giveaway, the center’s director Daniel Hernandez introduced Schwarzenegger on stage. “Everyone is going to get a turkey because this guy who comes every year always pays for the turkeys,” said Hernandez, referring to Schwarzenegger. The star then took a moment to address the Boyle Heights community.
“I’ve been coming here for the last 30, 33 years, right? Whatever, I forgot already,” Schwarzenegger quipped. “We’re here to give away turkeys to people who maybe don’t have the money to afford one for the whole family.”
Priscilla Hernandez, the administrative director for the center, told Boyle Heights Beat that families are still reeling from the economic aftereffects of the pandemic and that it’s more crucial than ever to give away Thanksgiving essentials to those in need. “I think it’s great that we’re giving out turkeys in the hardest of times,” Hernandez said. “Arnold has been doing this for a long time and we look forward to this [event].”
Schwarzenegger greeted a steady stream of attendees for about an hour and a half before departing. Still, the line persisted and wrapped around the block. Boyle Heights resident Eddie Galindo told Boyle Heights Beat he had been waiting for two hours before the event began at 9 a.m. Galindo, who is currently on disability leave from his job, said the giveaway is helpful for him and his family.
“It helps me to share with others because many people just don’t have the money to eat [a Thanksgiving meal] right now,” Galindo said.