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Smiles contagious at Rescue Mission’s Christmas Eve lunch

Man to spend first Christmas with family after Rescue Mission graduation

Daniel Barrett didn't even speak to his family for Christmas 2015 after he first sought help at the Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia. In 2016, he was soon to be employed and had plans to spend time with kin on Dec. 25, 2016.
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Daniel Barrett didn't even speak to his family for Christmas 2015 after he first sought help at the Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia. In 2016, he was soon to be employed and had plans to spend time with kin on Dec. 25, 2016.

A woman sitting in front of a plate of turkey, green beans and mashed potatoes appeared to be in deep thought during lunch at the Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia on Christmas Eve.

Then, another woman wearing felt-made holly leaves on her head asked, “Can I do something to make you smile?”

The question alone brought a grin to her face.

The festively dressed volunteer, 48-year-old Tonja Jordan, had completed her mission.

“You know, people are so grateful when you just give them a smile,” Jordan said. “Because a lot of times, you know, we don’t ever know what anybody’s going through, and a smile will just brighten their day.”

For the past nine years, Jordan and her 18-year-old daughter, Chanice, have volunteered to serve meals at the Salvation Army on Christmas.

It was their first time helping out at the Rescue Mission, where about 1,200 meals were served Saturday to people in need. Most of the meals were delivered directly to people, but more than 400 ate at the Rescue Mission downtown on Hazel Street, its Development Director Rob Schneck said. The annual Christmas Eve feeding has been a tradition for several decades.

For the second straight year, 56-year-old Al Hyatt, who lives at the Dempsey Apartments on Cherry Street, ate Christmas Eve lunch at the Rescue Mission. Hyatt said he saw a lot of his friends that he sees at homeless centers and feeding lines around town.

“I just think it’s nice to have a place to come and have fellowship with people,” Hyatt, of Warner Robins said. “I don’t have a family. Most of my family is gone now. It’s good to have somewhere to go.”

While the lunch is open to all people in need, the Rescue Mission also fed its residents, who are in a longterm life recovery program for survivors of domestic abuse, impoverished people and those suffering from addiction.

Daniel Baggett wasn’t expecting any gifts this year. So, when Schneck and others knocked on his door with a package and a stuffed stocking, it was a big surprise.

“It was kind of surreal. I didn’t actually know I was going to get a present this year since I’m not actually in the program,” Baggett said.

Baggett came to the Rescue Mission last November and graduated in June. He is staying in a nearby house until he can find permanent housing and a full-time job.

“I was just a lost soul looking for help and they gave it to me,” Bagett said of the Rescue Mission. “This Christmas I have actually made amends with my family. Last year, I didn’t even speak to them. ... It’s a great place for people to get their lives back in order.”

Laura Corley: 478-744-4334, @Lauraecor

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