Waterfront Rescue Mission in Pensacola is marking 70 years of providing a Thanksgiving Day meal for the homeless and others who need a little holiday cheer.
“The community has been donating food [and] l dollars to help us serve what will be over 1,000 meals on Thanksgiving Day,” said Angie Ishee at Waterfront.
About 160 volunteers will also be on hand that day to serve, clean up, and perform other tasks as they serve up to 300 people. And through a partnership through the Council on Aging, the mission will send out more than 300 meals to those unable to leave their homes.
“Thankfully, the community responded and we got in 120 turkeys that we needed,” said Ishee. “And really what we need is the huge cans of green beans and the huge cans of corn. And then we also need boxes of Stovetop Stuffing.”
And all of that will be turned into a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
“Turkey and dressing and gravy; green beans and corn and, of course, pie,” said Ishee. “What would Thanksgiving be without a great dessert?”
Waterfront serves about 4,000 unduplicated individuals each year and is on track to see that number increase by about 1 percent from a year ago. Ishee says the need is great for both the rescue and recovery of the area’s indigent.
“Those who walk up our sidewalks because they’re homeless and they have immediate needs,” Ishee said. “They need a meal, they need showers, laundry. They need computers to look for jobs; they might visit our on-site clinic. And then there are those who come to us who have addiction challenges. We have a yearlong addiction recovery program for men.”
And Ishee says you don’t have to be homeless to drop by for a bite on Thursday.
“Anybody who might be spending Thanksgiving Day alone or hungry, come join us on that day and be part of this exciting date,” said Ishee. ‘It is fun to see the smiles on faces, when other days they might feel hopeless.”
After Thanksgiving, Waterfront Rescue Mission shifts gears into Christmas mode. On Monday, the mission’s phones will open to sign up volunteers. Ishee says they’re already underway collecting food for the Yuletide meal, including the Christmas ham.
“We begin that preparation – very similar numbers – on Christmas Day; and again, it takes about 160 or more volunteers to make that happen,” said Ishee. “People just give of their time -- that they would otherwise spend with their friends, family and loved ones – to come spend it with those who are needy and are often viewed as ‘the least of these’ in our community.”
Ishee was asked which holiday – Thanksgiving or Christmas – draws a bigger turnout.
“[On] Thanksgiving Day we have a little bit bigger crowd; on Christmas Day, the homeless community will reconnect with family members,” Ishee said. “Even if it’s just for that day [or] even if it’s just for a short time. Thanksgiving Day we are just bustling and busting at the seams; but the numbers are very similar.”
After having served 23,000 meals and dealing with cold-weather-related needs in 2019, Waterfront’s Angie Ishee says a busy 2020 is on the horizon when it comes to growth – serving more clients on a larger scale.
“Transporting people to their jobs; getting people in schools,” said Ishee. “We’re going to expand our career development, transitional housing off-campus so that they can incrementally learn how to live independent [sic]. And it’s just exciting to watch lives being changed.”
More information is available at www.waterfrontmission.org.