‘Giving the community a lot of hope’
When Christie Barfield came to the Durham Rescue Mission about seven years ago to get her life back on track, her daughter was 3 years old. In 2007, they moved back to Greenville and she got a good job.
On Thanksgiving Day Thursday, Barfield returned with her daughter, Jessica Pinkham, who’s now 11. Her daughter sang in the mission’s church services in the morning, and also ate in the mission’s Center for Hope. Barfield said she wanted her daughter to be able to share her singing voice, as well as see others reaching out to people and sharing a love of Christ.
“We just wanted to be a part of it,” she said.
The annual meal at the Durham Rescue Mission drew 1,020 people, according to a news release from the mission, providing free food for the hungry as well as clothing and games. The Rev. Ernie Mills, the mission’s CEO and co-founder, said the meal serves the homeless, the working poor and the lonely.
Started in 1974, the nonprofit operates a homeless shelter as well as a faith-based program to help people with addictions. Mills said demand for the nonprofit’s services has increased as wages have remained flat and other expenses, such as food costs, have continued to rise.
People lined up for food outside and then went in to eat in the dining room of the mission’s Center for Hope, a building that opened last year. The nonprofit also had clothing to give away on racks nearby, free bags of groceries and tents where volunteers were running games for children such as corn hole, football toss and putt-putt.
It’s become a family tradition for Jessica Ingham’s family to travel from Fort Bragg to volunteer at the annual meal.
Now in their fourth year of helping out, the family has helped to serve food, to pass out toys and canned food, and this year, to run games for children, she said.
Last year, Ingham was volunteering while pregnant with her seventh child. She said she went into labor the morning after Thanksgiving, and had the baby that night.
“It opens our eyes to see how fortunate we are,” she said of volunteering. “I think it’s a great opportunity to make my family realize how lucky we are to have what we have,” she added.
Thanksgiving was a good day for Leon Smith, who ate a filling meal of turkey, corn stuffing and bread.
He’s been staying at the mission to fight a drug addiction and alcoholism, and he said it’s been going well. He said it’s been helping him to function better and he’s learning to be caring for other people.
“Today is a very good day,” Smith said.
Meredith Bullock is also staying at the mission after he lost his job and the home where he was living rent-free in Virginia burned. He said the mission’s event Thursday provided a peaceful, quiet, sober environment.
“It looks like it’s giving the community a lot of hope,” he said.