For more than a decade, the Central Coast Rescue Mission has provided a public Thanksgiving meal for citizens of Santa Maria, and it takes careful coordination to pull the event off.
“It’s traditional Thanksgiving food. People are so happy and sometimes they’re alone but often its families there and they’re just so glad to be fed and have a nice Thanksgiving meal,” said Mayor Alice Patino, who attends the meal.
The meal on Tuesday at the Santa Maria Veterans’ Memorial Building will include a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, cranberries, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, dinner rolls and dessert for about 1,000 people.
“The Rescue Mission always invites me to welcome people and I really enjoy doing that,” Patino said. “Santa Maria really cares about its people and the Rescue Mission does an incredible amount of work to put this on.”
This weekend, Rescue Mission staff and volunteers have been doing their final shopping, storing and preparing to make the meal possible. The whole process begins in October.
“For several weeks, we have been collecting,” said Larry Cooney, Rescue Mission director. “We have some individual donors and then the Santa Barbara County Foodbank is a big contributor to make sure it all works out.”
One of the biggest concerns every year is having enough turkey, and this year, they we’re relieved to meet their goal, Cooney said.
“A big deal for us is making sure we have all the turkeys we need,”
But it’s not just the big Thanksgiving meal that is supported by the Rescue Mission. They also distribute turkeys and groceries to between 20 and 30 families so that they can cook a meal and enjoy it in their own homes.
The Rescue Mission does a similar event — with about 1,300 people — at Christmas, too.
“We do a lot of outreach,” Cooney said. “This is just kind of aligning those into a greater effort to feed more people at one time and to remind them of the emphasis and significance of the holidays.”
Every Monday at 5 p.m. at Santa Maria Four Square Church, the Rescue Mission contributes a free hot meal and conversation, along with making hygiene products and Bibles available. They do it again on Fridays at the same time at the Power of God Christian Center. The meals are open to anyone who wants them.