A Makeshift Malibu Thanksgiving For Woolsey Fire Survivors

People attend the Malibu Strong Community Thanksgiving at Pepperdine University on Nov. 22, 2018. (Photo by Jacob Margolis for LAist)

By Jacob Margolis with Elina Shatkin

Thanksgiving, a day when we traditionally sit back and count our blessings, has a deeper resonance for many Malibu residents this year.

Two weeks ago, a day after a gunman shot 12 people in a Thousand Oaks bar, the Woolsey Fire ripped through Los Angeles and Ventura counties, destroying 1,500 structures and killing three civilians. Others were lucky enough to escape with their lives but lost most of their possessions.

Vidas Enck was staying in someone's guest house above Zuma when the fire swept through. He and his daughter, Misgana, fled.

A clothing giveaway at the Malibu Strong Community Thanksgiving at Pepperdine University on Nov. 22, 2018. (Photo by Jacob Margolis for LAist)

She fills a reusable shopping bag with shirts, pants, sweaters, stuffed animals — whatever she can find. They're piled on tables in the Pepperdine University cafeteria.

"Take it easy though, 'cause we've got nowhere to put anything," Enck tells her. "My car is full."

They're at the Malibu Strong Community Thanksgiving, which includes a turkey dinner with all the fixings. Anyone who needs it can also take items from the mounds of donated clothes. Organizers expect almost 500 people to turn up for the event.

For more than two decades, volunteers in Malibu have served Thanksgiving dinner to hundreds of families in need. After the Woolsey Fire, event founder Diane Malecha didn't know where or how this year's dinner would happen.

Then Pepperdine stepped in and, in the the past five days, helped plan this community dinner. They organized a clothing drive and convinced companies including Albertsons to donate food. People from the community also donated food, toys and other supplies.

"As dreadful as losing a home in these fires are, there's a certain part of me, particularly today at Thanksgiving, where it's times like this where it sort of restores my faith in humanity," says Marnie Mitze, vice president and chief of staff at Pepperdine.

Pumpkin pie served at the Malibu Strong Community Thanksgiving at Pepperdine University on Nov. 22, 2018. (Photo by Jacob Margolis for LAist)

Today's event isn't only for survivors of the fire. It's also for responders — the fire, police and other officials who were on the front lines, battling the fire and evacuating residents.

"It's been very helpful for my daughter," Enck says. "She got a lot of nice new clothing, which was great."

The house where they were staying was a total loss. Since the fire, he and his daughter have been couch-surfing.

"I've been sleeping in my shop in Ventura, temporarily. Someone's garage in Santa Monica. I think tonight I'll be in Topanga. Someone offered me a yurt. Just looking for a place to land to call home right now," Enck says.

He tries to keep the loss in perspective but he admits, "Every once in a while you just break down."

Still, he is touched by people's generosity.

"I think the biggest takeaway for me has been, it's really changed my opinion of Malibu," Enck says. "I always thought it was just Range Rovers and big houses behind gates. It's amazing how people have come forward and have been so generous."

People line up for food at the Malibu Strong Community Thanksgiving at Pepperdine University on Nov. 22, 2018. (Photo by Jacob Margolis for LAist)

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