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No Fowl, Some Harm

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In one case, a social agency's office staff had collectively signed up for a meal.

"I didn't work for a week just to feed people who didn't need it," Ligidakis says.

By the end of the Thanksgiving holiday, Ligidakis had served an estimated 32,000 people Valleywide, including 19,000 of the 23,000 people referred by Maiden at the city's Human Services Department. But Ligidakis says the 4,000 who didn't get served ruined the free-feeding experience for him.

"His life has been hell since this happened," Maiden says. The city, she says, accepts no responsibility because she and the senior services staff who took in applications were acting as volunteers.

But, she insists, "We've nominated him for an award, and we hope he gets it."

This year, St. Vincent de Paul served more than 3,000 Thanksgiving meals at its various dining sites. The holidays typically bring a decrease in meals served because those are the times when other people step in to help--people like Nick Ligidakis.

This year's fowl fiasco, though, came back to haunt St. Vincent de Paul because of its previous associations with Ligidakis' feeding program.

"I think what he's doing is a great service tothe community," says Chris Becker, St.Vincent de Paul's director of operations. "But I received a lot of nasty phone calls from people upset they hadn't received their meals."

"When we say we're going to serve, we serve," says Laura Knox of St. Vincent de Paul. "We try not to focus so much on the numbers as on the people getting fed. I mean, that's the most important part."

Ligidakis says he'll never stop trying to feed the hungry. But next year, he says, he'll pronounce an early cutoff date to give volunteers time to verify just how needy applicants really are. He says he will personally monitor the screening process, something he wishes he'd taken responsibility for this time around.

"Too many people got involved," he says. "There were too many cooks in the kitchen, and it spoiled everything."

Maiden agrees that the screening process needs to be improved.
"I would be happy to help him develop it," she says. "I'd hate to have anyone turned off by him or this program. He has a really good heart. I don't know anyone else who would do what he does.

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Marc Ramirez