California News

Rescue Mission serves a meal to more than 1,000 grateful people

Thanksgiving came early for at least 1,000 people at the San Diego Rescue Mission on Saturday afternoon, and a small army of staff and volunteers transformed the nonprofit into a frenetic but orderly restaurant.

“Two, line one,” shouted Paul Armstrong after seeing a volunteer across the room raise two fingers near the seats that had just opened. ” A wheelchair ? Two wheelchairs.

Every other day, Armstrong serves as the mission’s vice president of programs, but on Saturday he was more of a non-stop workhorse helping one of the nonprofit’s biggest annual events go off without a hitch. clashes. Volunteers serving as table captains reported the number of chairs that had opened, and Armstrong went back and forth to relay the word to ushers working two lines at the entrance.

Many diners were homeless and so many of them used wheelchairs or walkers that a queue was formed just for people who needed help.

“It’s amazing,” said Francisco Roman, who sat in a wheelchair outside the mission after finishing his meal. “They are great people. I am grateful for everything.

Rescue Mission President and CEO Donnie Dee greeted everyone entering the dining room and said 125 volunteers had been trained earlier in the day on how to serve their guests.

“It’s like coaching 5-year-old football players,” he joked of hosting the big, fast-paced dinner party.

Dee said they expected to serve 1,000 people but were prepared for 1,500, with about 300 turkeys and 1,500 pounds of potatoes. Any leftovers would be used for meals later in the week, he said.

At the back of the room, volunteers wearing blue T-shirts that read “We are better together” formed an assembly line to serve turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, a small bread and broccoli on plastic plates.

The three-piece band Rhythm Method performed in the dining room while a guitarist played tunes in the outdoor courtyard to entertain hundreds of people in line who sometimes stretched out on Second Avenue and around the corner from Elm Street .

San Diego City Councilman Stephen Whitburn, whose district includes the rescue mission, came to attend the dinner for the first time.

“I’m so glad I came,” he said. “You can just see the joy. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about. Homelessness can be so dehumanizing, so check this out. So many people enjoy Thanksgiving as a community.

John Hailey lived at the Golden Hall shelter run by Father Joe’s Villages last year and said he loved the meal at the mission.

“It means a lot,” he said. “The love, support and nourishment everyone is getting. What they are doing for the homeless is a blessing.

“I’m grateful to God, to Jesus, to everyone who helps me, and for overcoming some of the issues I was going through,” he said.

Marcos and Jennifer Rouse have been staying at a shelter run by People Assisting the Homeless for six months and have stayed at other shelters before.

“The food was great, but the broccoli wasn’t soft enough,” he said, noting that he had dental issues and missing teeth.

The couple said they were grateful to be able to move into permanent accommodation soon.

“I’m grateful to still be alive,” Marcos said. “And for being off drugs for three or four years, and I recently quit. And I’m grateful that this woman came into my life.

Sue Conklin had stayed at the Mission’s emergency shelter earlier this year and came for Thanksgiving with parents enrolled in the association’s Mission Academy residential program.

“I’m grateful for my family,” she said. “I’m grateful to have a shelter and I’m grateful for people like these who help the homeless. »

California Daily Newspapers

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