ATLANTIC CITY – For hundreds of people in the area who haven’t been blessed with food on their plates, a roof over their heads, or family and friends to spend Thanksgiving with, The Atlantic City rescue mission provided more than just a meal on Thursday.
“It’s people’s families, their husbands, grandfathers, cousins, uncles, siblings,” said Rescue Mission volunteer coordinator Mike Heston. “People who can be your family are now our family. People need to be loved.”
The rescue mission served about 500 Thanksgiving dinners to those in need. The menu included turkey, green beans, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, salads and rolls, as well as desserts like cheesecakes, cookies and pumpkin pies.
“Food is what makes people happy,” said Heston, who served as the Rescue Mission’s chef for about five years before becoming the volunteer coordinator five months ago. “It opens their hearts and gives them hope. It fuels them and gives them enough perseverance to keep going until the next day.”
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Louis Baxter, a native of the town and one of the leaders of the rescue mission, said the party took four days to set up.
“The sense of satisfaction I get,” Baxter said of why he loves working at the Rescue Mission. “It’s nice to know that you’ve done something for someone other than yourself. It’s all about them. We can do something good for people, while having the opportunity to transform the gifts into something good. They may be less fortunate, but they are still people.”
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Baxter said he fed more than 200 people during a given Rescue Mission shift.
People donated at least 100 turkeys, 30 cases of cranberry sauce, plates and silverware for the feast.
The mission hasn’t had its usual number of volunteers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Heston said they plan to increase the number of volunteers they have working at some point in the near future. .
Currently, the mission has a total of about 60 volunteers, from all walks of life.
The difference between Thanksgiving and any other day at the rescue mission is the family-like feeling, the volunteers said.
“People tend to stay longer, are more grateful, and have longer conversations,” Heston said.
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Heston said it was the time of year when they received the most donations.
“Homelessness can affect anyone at any time,” he said.
Geraldine McCluskey of Galloway Township volunteered for Thanksgiving to give back to the community and feel a connection with others.
“My family is from all over the country,” McCluskey said, adding that she has family in Colorado, Michigan, New York and other states. “It’s my way of doing something for the holidays.”
She also recently lost her house in a fire a few weeks ago, as well as several of her neighbors in the 18-unit buildingand recovers.
“Doing this kind of work and coming to terms with what happened a few weeks ago makes me grateful for what I have,” McCluskey said.
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McCluskey, who works in mental health, had a deceased brother who was homeless, and said volunteering meant more because of it.
She used to volunteer at the rescue mission a few years ago on holidays like Thanksgiving and noticed a change in the homeless population.
“The homeless population is older now,” McCluskey said. “And that’s a lot of people getting kicked out or kicked out of their homes.”
Roberta Horton, who was part of a group from AtlantiCare’s Leadership Empowering Generations AtlantiCare Community and You (LEGACY) employee resource group, said giving back helped her feel better after the recent death. from her husband.
“It’s really about serving people who are affected by circumstances beyond their control,” Horton said.
“People need to be loved,” Heston said. “If they can’t be loved, they can come here, because people need more love.”
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