About 50 volunteers cheerfully served Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday to about 300 people in need of a meal who flooded the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.
Instead of serving the meals buffet style, the volunteers busily bused turkey and dressing from the kitchen, waiting on each person as if the festive dining room was a restaurant.
The Rescue Mission, which provides shelter 365 days a year to the homeless, as well as addiction treatment programs, has been under more demand than ever because of the lagging economy.
Executive Director Rolf Geyling said the number of meals it has given out has increased 20 percent since the beginning of the economic recession.
“If you look at community resources, there are fewer places for people in need to turn,” he said, adding that he has seen more families take advantage of the Rescue Mission’s offerings.
It is accepting donated turkeys and food items throughout the holidays to help meet the increased need. The goal is 900 turkeys, and the Rescue Mission is about halfway there. It’s also raising money to feed people — every $1.50 donated will pay for one holiday meal. Click here to help.
Patrick Pastoret, in charge of the Rescue Mission kitchen, was one of those bustling in and out of the dining room Wednesday. He said he knows firsthand how important the dinner can be for those in need.
Pastoret was homeless six years ago, and his first encounter with the Rescue Mission was over turkey and dressing at the holiday dinner. He was addicted to alcohol and lived on the streets, but after that meal, Pastoret started the Rescue Mission’s addiction treatment program, beginning the journey to recovery.
He said he wanted people to leave the Rescue Mission on Wednesday feeling as if they’d been loved and cared for.
“You can’t fake love,” he said. “You can give homeless people meals, backpacks, all kinds of things, but if you don’t do it with love, it doesn’t mean anything.”