HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Every year, the Downtown Rescue Mission helps the homeless and families in need during the Thanksgiving holidays.
Last year the Mission served more than 1,200 meals at its banquet and they are expecting to surpass that number this year. The meal is a ‘traditional’ one – turkey, stuffing, cranberries, vegetables and of course, pumpkin pie.
Serving that many meals is an undertaking the Mission begins planning for in August. Before the banquet doors even open, the Mission delivers 1,000 meal boxes out into the community.
Over 300 volunteers were on hand to help serve the lunch on Wednesday and Thursday.
“We have been so blessed by the individuals and organizations in our community who have reached out to help those in need this holiday season by volunteering their time, money and resources” said Lisa Young, Director of Major Gifts & Community Relations.
It's an undertaking Mission President and CEO Keith Overholt say couldn't happen without giving hearts.
"It is a lot of planning, we depend on our volunteers to come out which is a great help for us because if it wasn't for them we wouldn't be able to do what we do," Overholt says.
And the volunteers come one and all from the young to the old.
"I just shook the hand of a kid who's 3-years-old and somebody who's 67-years-old."
Overholt says sometimes it's that one singular meal that can change someone's life.
"When they come in they're coming for a meal, but we provide so much more."
Overholt says it's about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with residents they hope really makes the difference.
"Because if they come in that one time, they could have hope forever."
Hope for residents like Cody Wilmath, an army vet who admits he lost his way after multiple tours of duty.
"I was overseas in Iraq twice, I came home and I just lost control - I didn't get my feet back grounded and it's almost coincidental that I ended up here because things were getting worse for me and I came here and stayed on the homeless shelter side for a night and talked to people and I heard of the twelve month program that was driven on Christ."
And for 3 months since Wilmath began the Mission's recovery program he's says he's been all in.
"It's changed my life," says the Iraq veteran. "I go to classes 5 days a week. You know we've got jobs, we got to work, we leave work we got to classes; right now I'm taking experiencing the heart of Jesus and the Purpose Driven Life."
Wilmath says upon intake residents are photographed and the picture posted on their respective beds. He says within two weeks, you can see the down-trodden come back to life; their color, their health and their hope returns right before your eyes.
"You almost have to be in a bad place to experience it," Wilmath explains, "but it brings you up so much - it brings you from the bottom up."
The Downtown Rescue Mission provides food, clothing, and shelter to the homeless of northern Alabama and southern Tennessee. For more information on the Downtown Rescue Mission, please visit www.downtownrescuemission.org.