BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The folks at the Mission at Kern County, which feeds hundreds every day including on its busiest day, Thanksgiving, woke up Tuesday morning, two days before the big event, to an alarming sight.
It was just before 2 a.m. when the driver of a pickup truck drove through a section of the front wrought iron fencing in front of the Mission at Kern County, a landing spot for hundreds of homeless and down-on-their-luck residents in Old Town Kern.
“I don’t know where he was headed, what direction he was thinking he was going, but he evidently thought he was at the wrong place,” said Mission Executive Director Carlos Baldovinos. “Because he obviously plowed through the main gate.”
The man kept driving, swerving through the block-long Mission campus, side-swiping parked cars along the way, all the way to the electronically controlled east gate.
“Could have been a lot worse,” Baldovinos. I mean, there could have been fatalities. If this was several hours earlier, there could have been people on the street.”
It’s a headache the folks at the Mission don’t need two days before their busiest day of the year — Thanksgiving, when they expect to feed as many as 600 people — free, no questions asked.
“Just the timing of it,” Baldovinos said. “For us, as an organization, having Thanksgiving in two short days, it causes a lot of headache for us as an organization.”
The Mission’s Jamie Durham says the gate at the east end of the Mission’s campus was upgraded just three months ago with a new motor.
“New sensors, new motor, new everything about three months ago,” she said. “So, it’s just really unfortunate that this happened.”
But the show will go on. Sixty turkeys, mashed potatoes, dressing, the whole deal. Volunteers were hard at work Tuesday preparing for the annual feast.
Baldovinos said an on-duty security guard followed the truck down the street and got its license plate. Bakersfield Police were then able to arrest 28-year-old Esteban Tapia of Bakersfield on charges of non-injury hit-and-run damage to parked cars and fencing and DUI. Ironically he appears to have been driving a truck equipped with welding equipment.
Thanksgiving at The Mission is not canceled. One little gatecrasher was not going to ruin the party.
If you’d like to help The Mission at Kern County this Thanksgiving, feel free to drop off a turkey or two Wednesday at its headquarters on East 21st Street. Of course the Mission is always glad to accept your sustaining donations. And if you might be going hungry this Thanksgiving, drop by the Mission between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Anyone and everyone is welcome.