Durham, N.C. — Although construction forced a change of venue, the Durham Rescue Mission and its team of 388 volunteers served meals to more than 600 people Thursday at the center's annual Thanksgiving Day community dinner, a tradition that has been feeding stomachs and souls for 38 years.
Volunteers were out in force overnight, preparing 80 turkeys and other hot holiday favorites.
"We want the community to come together today," Rev. Ernie Mills, the Durham Rescue Mission founder, said. "We'll have as many as 500 volunteers and we expect to serve as many as 1,200 meals."
Due to construction of the Mission's new Center of Hope, organizers made changes to how and where those in need received meals, clothing and groceries.
The doors of the chapel, at 1201 E. Main St., opened at 9:30 a.m. for a fellowship time filled with music and testimony. The annual Thanksgiving meal, clothing giveaway and food giveaway all begin outside at noon. Organizers gave away about 5,000 clothing items and 300 bags of groceries.
The Mission got permission from city officials to close part of East Main Street, North Holman Street and Morning Glory Street in order to have room for the giant dinner.
"We just want people come and enjoy Thanksgiving Day," Mills aid.
Volunteers also delivered 183 Meals on Wheels to those who could not travel to the Mission. By December, when the center is ready to host its annual Christmas Community Dinner and toy giveaway, officials expect the new Center of Hope to be completed.