Since the settlement of the colonies, Americans were familiar with setting aside days of thanksgiving, prayer and fasting in response to significant events.

In 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation designating Nov. 26 as a national day of thanksgiving to recognize the role of providence in creating the United States and the new federal Constitution. Later, President Abraham Lincoln took steps towards designating it a permanent federal holiday.

Americans traditionally recognize the first Thanksgiving as having taken place at Plymouth colony in the autumn of 1621. The Separatist Puritan settlers of Plymouth, known as Pilgrims, held a feast after their first harvest as a way of thanking God for their blessings.

Invited to their observance were members of the neighboring Wampanoag tribe, among whom such a harvest celebration was also neither unfamiliar nor uncommon. The 1621 thanksgiving celebration, however, did not become an annual event, rather, residents of Plymouth and the other colonies held days of thanksgiving and/or fasting over the years, at different times of year for a variety of reasons.

During the American Revolution, the practice continued. Colonial legislatures set aside days of prayer to recognize military victories against the British army. After British Gen. John Burgoyne surrendered to the Americans at Saratoga, New York, in October 1777, the Continental Congress suggested a national day be set aside to recognize the victory. Commander of the Continental Army, Gen. George Washington agreed, proclaiming Dec. 18, 1777, as the first national Thanksgiving Day. The Continental Congress supported similar proclamations through 1784.

So much can be said and done about our thankfulness. None more important than the support of the homeless. In a 2017 report the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness (C3H) has identified nearly 400 homeless in Santa Maria and over 200 in Lompoc. Survey results show 75 percent of homeless receive some form of shelter, 45 percent are Hispanic/Latino, 37 percent white, 32 percent of the unsheltered sleep in vehicles, and 63 percent are male.

All of people surveyed who sleep in a vehicle are between 25-65 years old. Migration of homeless people from South County — Carpinteria and Santa Barbara in particular — is observed, as these areas are more expensive to live in, with rental markets near zero-vacancy rates. It is likely the migration to North County is because the housing and cost of living is more affordable here.

Local organizations provide needed housing and meals during this cold season and serve meals to the homeless. These include the Good Samaritan Shelter and the Salvation Army. In addition, local grocery stores partner with the Foodbank to provide free turkeys. Buy one for yourself and buy another for this program.

Local churches provide much needed support.

"Santa Maria takes care of its people, and what isn't provided, we will provide to make sure every mouth is fed for either a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner," City Council member Etta Waterfield said at a local event.

With modest means you can support the Central Coast Rescue Mission. For just $2.05, you can help homeless and hurting men, women and their children take the first steps to address the root causes of homelessness and bring it to an end. This year they’ll serve turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and all the trimmings. By supporting the Central Coast Rescue Mission, you'll be helping provide thousands of free, nutritious meals to anyone who is hungry. More than 20,700 meals every year. Your gift also helps provide food boxes, recovery programs, and job training throughout the year.

Trent Benedetti is a long-time local business owner and board member of the Committee to Improve North County.

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