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Local News

Santa Barbara Rescue Mission Cooks Up Another Christmas Lunch

Annual event aims to give every individual in the community a chance to eat a hot meal and receive a gift at the holidays

Festive cheer was spread Friday afternoon when the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission held its annual Christmas lunch. Click to view larger
Festive cheer was spread Friday afternoon when the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission held its annual Christmas lunch. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

While families gather around the dinner table for the holidays, the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission made sure every individual in the community has a chance to eat a hot meal and receive a gift.

Festive cheer was spread at the organization’s dining hall Friday afternoon as staff and volunteers dished up a traditional Christmas lunch.

Each person who walked through the door was greeted with a plate full of ham, turkey, yams, veggies, a dinner roll, and pumpkin pie for dessert. 

Red and green holiday decorations lined the room and more than 200 people were served.

Larry Davidson, who graduated from the Rescue Mission’s Men’s Residential Treatment Program in 2001, said a warm meal can go a long way on a cold winter day. 

“It’s raining, I have food in my stomach and a roof over my head,” Davidson said. “I’m truly thankful.”

For Davidson, the meal was more than just enjoying the food.

He has no immediate family in Santa Barbara, and has attended the Christmas feast in the past.

“Some people think this is just a free meal — it’s a blessing,” Davidson said. “I spent some time in jail after the program, and this is a chance to talk to people who are currently in the treatment program.”

Jamie Levinson, 8, Drew Levinson, 11, and Paige Levinson, from left, helped serve meals with their parents at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s Christmas lunch on Friday. Click to view larger
Jamie Levinson, 8, Drew Levinson, 11, and Paige Levinson, from left, helped serve meals with their parents at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s Christmas lunch on Friday. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The 68-year-old said he is sober, earned a certificate from Santa Barbara City College in the Alcohol and Drug Counseling Program in 2015, and has an apartment in the area.

Volunteers of all ages kept busy during the two-hour event, and for one Santa Barbara family, it was an opportunity to give back as a group.

Jamie Levinson, 8, Drew Levinson, 11, and Paige Levinson, 14, alongside their parents, were equipped with gloves and aprons.

“It’s fun because we have never done this before,” Laguna Blanca student Paige Levinson said. “It feels good to help.”  

After the meal, attendees browsed two rooms filled with donations.

“It is simply an opportunity to extend grace and care to those struggling,” said Santa Barbara Rescue Mission President Rolf Geyling. “Being homeless is challenging every day of the year, but it can be particularly difficult during the holidays.”

Members of the Women’s Auxiliary program helped provide a gift distribution, and guests picked up clothing items, hygiene products, children’s toys, sleeping bags and blankets.

“As our organization's goal is to move people out of homelessness, this requires a foundation of trust and care,” Geyling said. “We hope this lets people know that there is a place in Santa Barbara that cares for them and wants to help.”

The Rescue Mission's holiday gathering started in 1964 with a Christmas dinner, marking this year as the 52nd time.

The Santa Barbara community provided the food and gift donations.

Geyling said the Rescue Mission was grateful to the individuals, churches, businesses and agencies who have helped care for the men and women the organization serves.

“Not only will individuals be able to eat good food to their heart's content, but they will also have the opportunity to select gifts and necessary items,” Geyling said.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Plates of pumpkin pie are ready for serving Friday afternoon during the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s annual Christmas lunch. Click to view larger
Plates of pumpkin pie are ready for serving Friday afternoon during the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s annual Christmas lunch. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

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