Thousands of volunteers will be needed to prepare food, serve, clean up and sit across the table from homeless people to provide a meaningful conversation, as well as a hot meal.
“Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spoken with many of the leaders of member missions,” said John Ashmen, president of AGRM,” All are saying the same thing: Volunteers and donations are consistent with that of past years, but the number of people in need seems to have increased substantially.”
AGRM ministries across the continent serve about 50 million meals annually, with the year-end holidays being one of the busiest times.
“On behalf of every one of the rescue missions out there, I am extremely thankful for all of the volunteered hours and donated dollars,” said Ashmen. “These gifts are making the holidays -- starting with Thanksgiving -- meaningful to so many. But we all must remember that hunger and homelessness are not reserved for November and December. The problem is year-round.”
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in January 2013, 610,042 people were homeless on a given night. Sixty-five percent of these were living in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs. Thirty-five percent were living without shelter. Almost one-quarter -- 138,149 -- were children under the age of 18. And these statistics could be presenting the best-case scenario, because some experts believe HUD’s numbers fall short of actuality.
All over the nation rescue missions will be ministering not only on Thanksgiving Day, but also through the week. According to Ashmen, volunteers from all spectra of society are joining together in creative ways to minister.
The Bowery Mission in New York City will serve a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for the 134th year on Thursday, Nov. 28, in the century-old chapel and then deliver food to people in all five boroughs. In addition to dinner, each guest will receive a new coat and a “blessing bag” of winter clothes and hygiene items. Children will also receive toys.
Union Rescue Mission of Los Angeles (URM) began Thanksgiving outreach on Nov. 21 with a foot-washing ministry to homeless men and women of Skid Row. In addition to cleaning their feet, podiatrists were on hand to give medical treatment, and professionals offered counseling. Volunteers offered to pray with participants and presented each one clean socks and new shoes. On Nov. 23, a dinner of 580 turkeys, deep-fried on URM’s loading dock, was served to the Skid Row community, continuing a 122-year-old tradition of Thanksgiving meals.
The Nashville Rescue Mission will host Tracy Lawrence’s eighth annual “Mission Possible” Turkey Fry on Tuesday, Nov. 26. Award-winning singer/songwriter Lawrence and a host of his friends will fry more than 500 turkeys for Nashville’s homeless and hungry. Each year he is joined by special guests, such as Titans professional football players, Titans cheerleaders and music celebrities. “I’m humbled by the outpouring of support from friends who give their time to be part of the Turkey Fry to raise awareness of the great services the mission provides every day to the homeless and those in need,” said Lawrence.
Wheeler Mission Ministries in Indianapolis is sponsoring its 11th Annual Wheeler Mission Drumstick Dash on Thanksgiving Day. Events include the 4.6-mile Competitive Run/Walk, the 2.5-mile Fun Run/Walk and the Lil’ Gobbler’s Run of 50 yards. All entry fees will benefit the daily mission ministries to local homeless. About 18,000 people are expected to participate.
“These are just four examples of the amazing things that will be happening at rescue missions in big and small cities from coast to coast,” said Ashmen. “And the participation of community members, extending radical hospitality, is a testament to the spirit of generosity from people who want to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” added Ashmen.
Volunteer and donation opportunities at local AGRM-member rescue missions can be found at www.agrm.org/agrm/Locate_a_Mission.asp.
Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM) is North America’s oldest and largest network of independent, faith-based crisis shelters and rehabilitation centers, offering radical hospitality in Jesus’ name. Through addiction recovery, education, job and life skills training, and housing services, many of our poor and powerless neighbors receive help and hope. Every year, AGRM member missions serve approximately 50 million meals, provide more than 20 million nights’ lodging, distribute more than 25 million pieces of clothing, bandage the wounds of hundreds of abuse victims and graduate more than 20,000 people from addiction-recovery programs into productive living. To learn more, visit www.agrm.org.
To schedule an interview with John Ashmen, contact Roe Ann Estevez @ 214-605-0733 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To locate a local rescue mission in your area, go to www.agrm.org/agrm/Locate_a_Mission.asp.