It was almost noon when Greg Wills and his fiancee Marie Maly pulled up in front of a small house on Triple Hill Drive. Wills stayed at the wheel of his Jeep as Maly piled out with Wills daughters Nina, 11, and Ailee, 9.
The girls each took two Styrofoam plates full of turkey dinner from the Jeeps hatchback and Maly knocked on the door, calling out Happy Thanksgiving! as she did at every stop.
Gloria Rhynes came to the door and thanked them for the meals from the Macon Rescue Mission. She would share the food with her two sons; Rhynes said she calls the mission for a holiday meal every year.
Theyre some beautiful people, she said. Theyll help you every way they can, and I know that. Ive been going up there for many years.
Maly said on previous Thanksgivings shes volunteered at the rescue mission itself, but was glad she decided to join in the meal delivery this time.
I like this better, getting out and seeing the people, she said.
The people in need, Wills added, just before they headed off for their fourth delivery out of 18.
Theirs was one of half a dozen vehicles crisscrossing the city on nearly empty streets at midday, delivering traditional Thanksgiving meals of turkey, dressing, vegetables, rolls and pie, according to the rescue missions Executive Director Jeff Nicklas.
More was dished out at long trestle tables inside the mission itself at 774 Hazel St., served by volunteers. Including 20 teenagers who helped prepare things Monday, about 100 people put in the time and effort to make sure anyone who asked got a warm meal, Nicklas said.
The mission usually plans to serve about 250 meals at its tables and deliver 250 more, mostly to the elderly; but this year 100 meals were served in the first hour alone, and 280 people signed up for home delivery, he said.
While there were plenty of familiar faces, those seeking Thanksgiving help were a more diverse group than in past years, Nicklas said.
I see more people in need that arent necessarily the usual group of homeless, he said. A lot more of the low-income. Probably they have housing, but barely.
Maly and Wills stopped by Dorothy Franklins Third Street house to drop off two plates. Franklin said she, too, was a repeat customer; shed called two weeks earlier to ask for the holiday delivery.
I call every year and they send a plate out, she said.
Franklin also was sharing with her family. The foods always good, she said; but if the rescue mission didnt deliver, she would have gone to her daughters since she cant cook much for herself.
Maly said this was her third year of volunteering in some form.
I just decided I wanted to volunteer, so I picked the Macon Rescue Mission, she said. I figured that would do the most good.
Thursday was Wills first time -- at the rescue mission, anyway.
I worked for the state as a substance abuse counselor, he said. We did a lot of this type of thing.
Despite the hundreds of meals served, the rescue mission couldnt cover all those who might otherwise have a hungry holiday. The Salvation Army also was serving turkey, ham, and casseroles and cakes baked by local church members at its center at 1955 Broadway, said Maj. David Cope.
We had about 120 (diners) today, he said. The weather was perfect today, so the festivities were great. As always, this community really comes together when theres a need like that.
The Salvation Army provides special Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, but serves community meals from 1955 Broadway every day, Cope said.
About the same number came in for Thanksgiving dinner as last year, he said.
We do have a number of people staying in our shelters right now, so they were a good part of our group, Cope said.
He thanked volunteers for providing food, work and funding, and said this years holiday kettle donation drive is in line with last years totals so far. But there are plenty of families in need of seasonal assistance and toys for children, Cope said.
Those numbers are higher than last year, he said. The charitable can adopt an angel at the Macon Mall, or call the Salvation Army directly, Cope said.
Helping in Houston County
Meanwhile in Houston County, deputies from the jail delivered meals to the needy with help from family and Chick-fil-A in Perry.
We fed 62 families, said Houston County Sheriffs Maj. Alan Everidge. The recipients were identified by local churches or Loaves & Fishes.
Volunteers went from one edge of the county to the other with pre-cooked turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans.
All they had to do was heat it up, Everidge said. We had a great time doing it, and were already planning on what were going to do next year for Thanksgiving.
The idea came from jail transportation deputies, and many of them washed cars or worked at Chick-fil-A to raise money, he said.
Our next plan is to work on a toy drive for needy children here in the county, Everidge said, for which another fundraiser will be planned.
Elaine Evans had her first experience volunteering at the rescue mission. She helped pack meals, made half a dozen delivery stops herself to hospice patients and the housebound with rescue mission residents Will Jones and Walter Roberts. Then all three donned aprons to help serve in the kitchen. It was a full day.
I brought my significant other, Tom Reilly; and I talked his mother Mary into coming too, she said. Weve met some wonderful people.
Evans said she and Reilly had each, unbeknownst to the other, been thinking about volunteering for the holiday. She happened to speak up first: Hey, lets go do something different this year. Lets go give back.
Out in the dining room another resident, Charles Campbell of Perry, dug into two plates while his slice of pumpkin pie waited in a bowl.
Campbell said Houston County courts sent him to get treatment for drug and alcohol problems and work at the rescue mission for six months. He has another month of scrubbing pots and pans before being released on probation.
Campbell said he wished he was with his family for the holiday, but his substance abuse drove a wedge between them. He praised the rescue mission for keeping him and others out of jail, instead helping them to build a work ethic and fit back into society.
Campbell said hes getting back in touch with his family, and is trying to rebuild his life and avoid future trouble. That may take a while, but on Thursday one plate of turkey and dressing and another of green beans and macaroni and cheese provided some consolation.
Excellent. It aint as good as Mamas own, but itll do, he said.