Ashley Tolliver catered to her audience Thursday when she described to her father why they absolutely needed to be on time at the Tacoma Rescue Mission, where they helped serve Thanksgiving meals this year.
“It’s like the Super Bowl,” she said.
They spend months preparing for the holiday meal. Then it’s game time.
Tolliver is the mission’s volunteer outreach specialist, and her father joined her as she worked Thursday.
About 500 volunteers helped serve meals between the mission’s downtown and Adams Street Family Campus locations, both of which provided food throughout the day.
The atmosphere at Adams Street was much like any holiday table. It’s about “food, football, fellowship,” said Chris Croft, family division director for the mission.
The not-for-profit organization provides food and shelter to Pierce County’s homeless at six locations. It serves about 23,350 meals a month, and expected to provide 1,500 for the holiday.
For some, serving the Thanksgiving meals was a teaching moment.
“I want them to learn how the people are living, and what they’re going through,” said Helen Challender of Puyallup, who brought her daughter, granddaughters, and her daughter’s mother-in-law to volunteer at the Adams Street location. The family has made volunteering on the holiday a tradition for the past 10 years or so. This was their first year serving at the Rescue Mission.
It was 11-year-old Mystique Hendrickson’s first year helping out, too. She said that although she had to wake up at 7:30 a.m., it was fun.
“I get to meet new people and help other people, too,” she said while eating lunch and chatting with Challender’s family.
Volunteers and clients of the shelter alike were thankful for newfound friends Thursday.
Darcy Danh, 14, gave thanks for her new baby godbrother, who she sometimes gets to watch.
Their mothers met after moving into the Adams Street campus, and Darcy’s mom, Alissa Long, was asked this month to be the roughly 10-day-old boy’s godmother.
“We care a lot about our community,” said Long. “He’s just a blessing.”
The two families hope to get a house together one day.
Until then, they have the resources of the Rescue Mission.
“They’re going to help us get back on our feet,” Long said.
Adams Street had holiday place settings this year. China, glassware, centerpieces and battery candles were donated for the celebration.
“It’s really nice here,” said Gene Cooper, who had been at the shelter with his family for about a week. “They help you out with everything that they can.”
Daughter Hailie, 5, sat shyly in a big chair hugging dad. Her mom and 15-year-old brother were nearby. Their family was thankful to be together for the holiday, which the campus made possible, Cooper said.
Hailie broke her hug only to go play with new friends.
She has a lot of those to celebrate with this Thanksgiving, her dad said.
“Everybody kind of sticks together and helps everybody out,” Cooper added. “It’s a family within a family.”