Mission Waco’s annual Thanksgiving Day Lunch With The Homeless will be held Thursday at the Meyer Center for Urban Ministries, beginning with a worship service at 11 a.m. followed by lunch at noon.
According to the Heart of Texas Homeless Coalition website, as of 2009 there are 312 homeless in Waco which is down from the 2007 survey, when there were 431. However, according to a National Alliance to End Homelessness survey done in 2009, there are 37,671 homeless in Texas.
Jimmy Dorrell, director of Mission Waco, said he expects about 100 homeless and about 70 volunteers to attend this year’s event. The event is not open to the public, only to the homeless and volunteers. Mission Waco is no longer accepting volunteers for the event due to concerns with space. They are currently at full capacity.
Dorrell said one of the blessings of the holiday is people come out of the woodwork to help, but the challenge is to find people to be 12-month volunteers, not just holiday volunteers.
“We participate as a family, our kids join us [my husband and I] as well,” said Melissa Naylor, national account manager at ServiceMaster Recovery Management. “It is just what our family does for Thanksgiving and it is our way of giving back, but what we have learned in the process is we get so much more back.
“I can’t explain the feeling it is to do this, but whatever we give of ourselves, we get back 100-fold. It is an incredible event. Our favorite time of year and we look forward to it, as well as the kids, all year long,” he said.
Donations of food have been given this year from CISCO, who donated 16 turkeys. The North West Optimists Club donated $500 and the Woodway United Methodist Church youth group donated $400 to purchase additional items for the event.
Naylor said Aramark, a food services and facilities management company, has helped this year by holding a canned food drive.
They provided the green beans, corn, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce. Naylor said that because of their generosity Mission Waco will not have to purchase these items.
Hygiene kits will be given to the homeless at the event and if the budget permits, there will be donations of warm clothing.
“We do not work out of pity, we work out of a model of empowerment at Mission Waco,” Dorrell said. “Which means this is not a time to get together to feel sorry for homeless people. It is so much more than that; it is a friendship. Our goal is to empower the poor and give them dignity, and so they are a part of the worship service. It is not for them, it is with them. We work really hard not to just feel sorry for people because we know they have a lot to teach us, so it is a reciprocal relationship.”
Dorrell said nothing is worse in life than being alone on a holiday, especially one focused on family, so this is a chance to bring people together and celebrate.
“We do more than just eat turkey and dressing,” Dorrell said. “Homeless and volunteers talk about the things that they are most thankful for. It is pretty overwhelming to hear, even the homeless more than the volunteers’ gratitude, and things that they are thankful for. It is overwhelming to hear as many things that have gone wrong in their lives, they’re still so much more thankful than we are.”
The Meyer Center is located at 1226 Washington Ave.