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Santa Barbara Rescue Mission Serves Annual Thanksgiving Feast to Those in Need

Some 300 people are treated to a turkey dinner with all the trimmings at annual event

Some 300 people were served a Thanksgiving feast Wednesday at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. Click to view larger
Some 300 people were served a Thanksgiving feast Wednesday at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The slices of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream were lined on a table on Wednesday, and the smell of turkey and dressing filled the air. 

The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission served about 300 meals in two hours to those in need at its annual Thanksgiving feast.

Its dining hall on East Yanonali Street was filled with autumn decor, orange and yellow party streamers and round tables. Guest read handwritten messages from donors and volunteers penned onto two “Happy Thanksgiving” banners hanging on the walls.

“Our thoughts are with you today,” read a message.

More than 40 volunteers — along with Schipper Construction employees, Boy Scout Troop 26 members and Samarkand retirement community residents — staffed the food stations as guests waited patiently in line outside the Rescue Mission and inside at their tables.

At the start of the meal, Rescue Mission President Rolf Geyling shared a prayer with attendees.

“For the homeless, it’s challenging every day of the year, but the holidays are particularly difficult,” Geyling told Noozhawk. “The community is extending grace and care to people who otherwise go without. If you are going to attempt to help people — you have to show them the care — this is caring for people, and we want them to feel loved.”

Gary Church — who works with Schipper Construction, which is involved with the Rescue Mission’s facility remodelling project — said it was his first time volunteering to serve hot meals at the early Thanksgiving lunch.

“It is a privilege and great opportunity — I couldn’t find a better way of giving back,” Church said about the gathering. “I believe in what the Rescue Mission does.”

Wesley Jones, the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s food service supervisor, opens canned cranberry sauce during the annual Thanksgiving feast on Wednesday. Click to view larger
Wesley Jones, the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s food service supervisor, opens canned cranberry sauce during the annual Thanksgiving feast on Wednesday. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

In the kitchen, Wesley Jones, the Rescue Mission’s food service supervisor, was opening canned cranberry sauce.

In all, about 960 pounds of turkey meat were cooked, about 600 servings of stuffing were prepared, two gallons of gravy, the mashing of about 100 pounds of potatoes and an estimated 100 pumpkin pies were served.

“It’s a great way for us to give back to the community,” Jones said.

Meloey Cruz was among those attending. She said she is a volunteer at the Rescue Mission and has been living at the shelter for five months.

“I pretty much know everyone here,” Cruz said.

She said she has been in Santa Barbara “off and on” for 30 years. Cruz said she also worked in shelters in Santa Maria and Lompoc, as well as other cities. 

Cruz said she has been homeless since she was 19.

“I appreciate people taking their time to come help and donate — I’m grateful,” the 50-year-old said. “The homeless aren’t as bad as people think they are. Not all homeless people are bad.”

The Rescue Mission is the only emergency shelter that is open 365 nights a year from Santa Maria to Ventura. In 2016, the organization provided more than 140,000 meals to individuals in need.

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.

The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission served more than 300 traditional homemade meals and its Thanksgiving feast on Wednesday. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission served more than 300 traditional homemade meals and its Thanksgiving feast on Wednesday. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)
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