Community Feature

Scott Carlson and Dan Ferbal Annual Thanksgiving Dinner

By The WORD San Diego News Staff

Traditionally Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to gather and feast on good comfort food and spread appreciation and love to one another. It’s a time to gather and celebrate all that we are thankful for including the joy of good company and community. Sadly, this isn’t the case for everyone. There is a large portion of our community as well as the community at large who don’t have family and/or friends to “break bread with” which can feel isolating and sad. So once again, the LGBTQ+ community comes the rescue!

L to R: Terry Cunningham, Maureen O’Connor and John Koehler. First Community Thanksgiving Dinner (Circa 1989)

In the late ’80s, during the height of the AIDS pandemic, San Diego activist and Being Alive co-founder, Scott Carlson, saw too many people shunned by their families spending the holidays alone, so he stepped into action, he opened the doors of his home and invited members of the community that were living with HIV/AIDS to spend the day with him and their new chosen family. Little did he know that he was beginning a tradition that has grown into a staple event in the community on Thanksgiving and is one of the most notable aspects of his legacy.

When Scott passed away in 1990, members of the San Diego LGBTQ+ community vowed to continue his tradition both as a way of honoring him and to continue serving those in need. Over the years, the dinner has grown and is no longer just an event for those living with HIV/AIDS, but anyone that is wanting or needing a safe space to eat and celebrate. 

In 2004, the Imperial Court de San Diego (ICSD) took over organization and production of the annual dinner, renaming it The Scott Carlson Thanksgiving Community Dinner in his honor and memory. Then in 2019 The dinner was renamed to Scott Carlson and Dan Ferbal Thanksgiving Community Dinner to honor Dan Ferbal of The Rob Benzon Foundation who passed away. 

Community activist and San Diego Pride Executive Director, Fernando Z. Lopez, Jr has said this of the annual event; “While I personally know all too well the hardship that the holidays can bring to our community, I am also grateful for and inspired by our resilience. It is a thing of beauty to watch our community come together in support, as we always do, with innovative approaches to friendship, family, and love. My gratitude to the LGBTQ-owned small businesses and staff who work to stay open today helping our community be in shared space. The annual Scott Carlson & Dan Ferbal Community Thanksgiving Dinner is no small feat and my love and appreciation to the dedicated volunteers from the Imperial Court de San Diego, Rob Benzon Foundation, and The Center who are work tirelessly to provide holiday meals to our community.”

So, all are invited and welcomed to the San Diego LGBT Community Center on November 23rd, Thanksgiving Day from 11:AM to 3:PM for a short ceremony at 11:30AM and a delicious warm meal prepared with the most important ingredient which is LOVE!

If you are able and willing to volunteer to prepare and serve food, please contact Darnelle at (619) 737-7386 or Mike at (619) 254-6372 both of the Imperial Court de San Diego.