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Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Volunteer Cage Lewman, 10, puts whipped cream on Robert Bertrand’s pie Christmas at the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission.

Hot meals for less fortunate

Volunteers serve 2,300 Christmas turkey dinners at Rescue Mission

Dorothy Felger, of Huntertown, puts gravy and biscuits in to-go containers at the Rescue Mission’s annual Christmas dinner. Felger, a first-time volunteer, said she was enjoying it so much she plans to come back again to volunteer.

– With a line of people waiting patiently for a Christmas meal, an army of volunteers in the Rescue Mission was hustling to serve food.

Mike and Karen Graham of Fort Wayne were part of that midday hustle, working in an assembly line to put meals in bags for those who wanted to eat elsewhere.

It was the Grahams’ second straight year volunteering at the mission on Christmas.

“We didn’t have plans so we figured we might as well help,” Karen Graham said. “We are fortunate and just felt like it would be a good thing to give back to people less fortunate.”

Chris Richardson, the mission’s food service manager, said a few hundred folks worked to make the meal happen.

He said much of the food was prepared and frozen during the week before Christmas and then reheated just before serving.

Shortly after noon on Christmas, Richardson said things were going smoothly, but he admitted the kitchen was behind.

“My ovens are a little tired. Space is a little cramped. But we’ll get caught back up here pretty soon,” he said.

Each meal consisted of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, a roll and a slice of pie, with choices including chocolate cream, sugar cream, pumpkin, apple and cherry.

The Rev. Donovan Coley Sr., the mission’s CEO, said 2,300 meals were served this year.

Of those, 900 meals were eaten at the mission, and 1,400 were picked up and taken away, he said.

The total was about the same as last year, showing that the mission remains a vital organization, Coley said.

“There’s still a serious need,” he said. “There’s still a significant portion that weren’t able to put food on their table.”

Jennifer and John Schuller were among those who sat down to eat at the mission.

The young unemployed couple said the organization had housed them in a hotel for a week.

“If it wasn’t for the mission, we’d be living in our Blazer right now,” Jennifer Schuller said.

They were also grateful for the food.

“If it wasn’t for this place, we wouldn’t be eating,” John Schuller said.