Emmilee Mitchell has memories of helping her mother prepare food for Thanksgiving, kneading the bread and learning how to make the dressing.
But for the past three years Thanksgiving has looked a bit different for Mitchell and her wife, Jennifer.
They volunteer at the Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia each year, working in the assembly line that dishes and boxes up food to be delivered to the elderly, disabled and others who can’t make it to the mission’s cafeteria for the annual Thanksgiving meal.
Emmilee spent three hours bagging up more than 750 meals for delivery while Jennifer worked as a runner, carrying the boxed meals from where they were dished to her wife’s bagging station.
“As an adult, this is Thanksgiving,” she said.
The mission, located near the Bibb County jail in downtown Macon on Hazel Street, has been serving Thanksgiving meals for more than 30 years as a community ministry, said Erin Reimers, the rescue mission’s president.
In addition to the meals delivered, they planned to serve a few hundred meals to walk-in diners.
Typically, about half the crowd are homeless, Reimers said.
Staff, volunteers and mission residents have spent the last couple weeks preparing for the Thanksgiving feast.
All the food was either provided or funded by donations, Reimers said.
A bank donated all the pies and a church gave 75 turkeys, she said.
The Middle Georgia Apartment Association collected canned goods and “we got lots of the green beans and corn from that,” Reimers said.
After putting out a plea on Facebook for elbow macaroni for the macaroni and cheese, “boxes and boxes of macaroni came in within a few days,” she said.
“It’s just amazing. This community is unbelievably generous,” Reimers said.
A few dozen volunteers worked as servers for the dine-in crowd Thursday, carrying prepared plates from the kitchen and serving drinks.
Among them were about 10 members from Macon’s Walking in Grace Fellowship church, including a few youth group members.
“We want to teach the youth that although this is a holiday, they’re others who are less fortunate,” said Cheryl Graham, one of the church volunteers. “It’s not about us. It’s about serving and helping others.”
‘We love to help people’
Earlier in the day, David and Kelly Partin, and their two teenage sons loaded up 36 meals destined for the Dempsey Apartments in downtown Macon.
Having moved from Florida nearly three years ago, the Warner Robins family celebrated Thanksgiving a couple weeks ago when a family member visited.
“It kind of left today open,” David Partin said. “We wanted to do something and figured this is a great way to give back and show our thanks and appreciation for what the Lord has given us.”
Earlier in the morning, the Partins made another trip — delivering seven meals to two families. It was their first time volunteering for the mission on Thanksgiving
Partin, who works in medical equipment sales, ended up delivering meals to one of his customers.
“She was surprised to see us,” he said. “We had an opportunity to pray for her.”
Like the Mitchells, volunteering at the mission has become an annual tradition for Larry and Judy Cornwell.
The Coast Guard stationed Larry Cornwell in Warner Robins about 20 years ago. Being a military family, they became accustomed to spending holidays far from their family on the West Coast.
“We have everything we need — a roof over our heads and food on the table — and some of these people, they don’t have any of that,” Judy Cornwell said. “We love to help people.”
Judy Cornwell, a pediatric nurse, and her husband, who has retired from the military and works for a civilian contractor, began delivering food on Thanksgiving about eight or 10 years ago.
“I’m thankful to God for what he has given us and now we’re trying to give back, Cornwell said. “Somebody’s got to be God’s hands and feet. That’s what we do when we drive.”