SANTA ANA, Calif. -- A formerly homeless man from Philadelphia began a new life in California a few years ago and opened a bakery in Santa Ana.
Jason Mercado decided to give back to the community with his non-profit, The Sweet Mission Project.
He baked 350 cookies to go with an early Thanksgiving dinner Saturday.
"I'm from Philadelphia and for a while I struggled with addiction. Had a job after 12 years, lost my job, ended up being homeless. It was real, kind of devastating. It's not something that you would expect," Mercado said.
While homeless, Mercado enrolled in a class to learn how to begin his own business. Although he was unable to pay tuition, he managed to receive a scholarship.
Then he started the Sweet Mission Cookie Company using the 4th Street Market East End Incubator Kitchens in Santa Ana.
"He's a really popular dude, really likable and is probably the most passionate about baking," Portola Coffee Roasters barista, Jacob Wright, said.
Mercado's big break came when someone saw his company on Facebook and called.
"They gave me the opportunity to do cookies for an Oscars post-party," Mercado said.
He started his non-profit last year and held a second annual Thanksgiving Harvest Dinner for homeless people and those in need.
Volunteers have donated more than 20 turkeys to help with the Thanksgiving dinner.
"We have a ton of dressing, a ton of gravy, a ton of mashed potatoes that we're going to be making. It's going to be a great dinner," Mercado said. "It's just a way for me to give back and put a smile on somebody's face."
The feast took place at the Newsong Church in Santa Ana from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
Ex-homeless man bakes cookies for California holiday feast