Every year, Union Rescue Mission hosts multiple Thanksgiving meals for the homeless. But this year, of the 500 turkeys URM prepared, not one of them was donated.
CEO Andy Bales told The Christian Post while they did receive financial donations to buy the turkeys, it was a break from previous years when the mission had plenty of donated turkeys. “Usually on holidays we have no worries” about donations, he said.
Homeless shelters and mission organizations throughout the United States are looking for new ways to meet the demand of feeding the homeless this Thanksgiving as donations are down, and demand is up.
On Saturday, they held the first of their three Thanksgiving banquets for the season, with 330 volunteers to help serve 3,000 people from the L.A. area.
EJ Underwood, director of Development for Charlotte Rescue Mission in North Carolina, told The Christian Post last year about 700 people showed up to their annual Thanksgiving meal, but this year they are preparing to break 1,000.
CMR starts the day off with a hot breakfast, giving attendees the chance to make calls to loved ones on cell phones, and watch movies from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thanksgiving dinner is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteers and staff work hard to make the dinner special. Underwood said they use real China with silverware and cloth napkins and have a host and maitre d' to seat people.
On top of providing housing for homeless in the Charlotte area, CRM also serves annual holiday meals on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Underwood says their monetary donations are behind this year, and they are down in number and size. But, regardless of financial challenges, she said they do have plenty of turkey for Thursday.
Farther north of the Tarheel State, The Bowery Mission works on a larger scale serving three meals a day year round. On Thanksgiving, they serve more than six meals at their flagship location in New York City. On top of that, they will also provide meals in 20 locations throughout the five boroughs of New York City.
James Winans, director of Development for Bowery, told The Christian Post they plan on serving more than 5,000 meals this Thursday. Last year, they served 4,989 meals, but based on this year’s 5 percent increase in demand of Bowery’s daily meals, Winans said they are preparing for a big Thanksgiving crowd.
On Sunday, kitchen staff and volunteers at Bowery began preparations for the meals. This year, Bowery also sent out an email asking for last minute donations to keep their kitchen stocked. They asked for food items like fresh baked bread, fruits and vegetables, and milk and coffee.
“We have had to scramble more than ever this year to bring in enough donated food to pull this off,” said Winans. But through food and financial donations from Whole Foods, American Bible Society and Hain Celestial Group they have managed to pool enough resources to provide the food.
Bowery will also donate a new winter coat to each guest at their Thanksgiving meal, and they have partnered with Toys for Tots so that every child can receive a new toy at the meal.
Winans said that it’s important to make sure that everyone is fed, but it’s more important that it doesn’t end there. He echoes what many of the other rescue missions have said. Their goal is to feed the homeless, but also, through recovery programs, housing and ministries, to provide guests “an invitation to life transformation.”