Rescue Mission’s Easter giveaway: A sunny day for all

Mar. 29, 2013 @ 05:53 PM

One thousand hot dogs were just a small part of what awaited more than 1,800 needy people on Good Friday at the Durham Rescue Mission’s annual Easter giveaway.

It was a very good Friday, indeed.

The sun was bright and the smiles were broad as children got Easter baskets full of stuffed animals, fire trucks and candy.

For the Rev. Ernie Mills, who founded the Christian homeless shelter on East Main Street with his wife, Gail, seeing so much joy made the hours of preparation worth it.

“Look at those children,” Mills said as a group of youngsters sat in a circle, giggling and comparing Easter baskets. “This is what I love.”

Gail said volunteers spent all night cooking pork in the cold.

“It’s heartwarming to see so many volunteers give up a day to work here,” she said.

Hundreds of people enjoyed meals inside the recently opened Center for Hope, which boasts a spacious dining room. It was the first time the hall had been used for a community event.

“Before, everybody had to eat outside,” she said. “And to be able to come into a beautiful facility like this makes them feel more like guests. And that’s our goal. We want them to know they’re very special to us.”

One person enjoying his hot dog and barbecue sandwich in the dining hall was retired Army veteran Tony Ray, 59.

“This is a great day,” Ray said. “I was in the Rescue Mission before. Now I’ve got my own place, and I’m doing good.”

Tichina Clay brought her 7-year-old grandson and 11-year-old son, who got Easter baskets.

“I think this is a wonderful thing to do, because we have so many kids who aren’t able to go to stores,” she said. “So many parents work hard, but just aren’t able to earn that extra dollar.”

Sonja Avery, a mother of four, was thankful for the free clothing. “This is actually helping me a lot, because I have four boys and it’s just me [earning money].”

Avery has a temporary, part-time job, but is looking for something full-time and permanent.

“Buying clothes at the store is really expensive, so I really appreciate this,” she said. “And when I have money, I go to [the mission’s] thrift stores, because they also help out a lot.”

Carolyn Morales has her hands full with two children, one of them a son who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She said the mission’s giveaway is a blessing.

She and her husband have jobs, but they don’t generate enough money.

“This is going to make Easter good for the kids,” she said.

For 43-year-old Kenneth Johnson, “the preaching” before the giveaway was the best part.

“I love what they doing for people,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

Ten-year-old Star Daughtridge had her arms full of Easter baskets for her brothers and sisters, and was proud of her mother for winning a big stuffed bear. She said Friday was a joyous day.

“I’m really happy, because it was kind of boring standing in line [waiting for the event to begin],” she said. “But it wasn’t boring when we got out here and started playing with toys and got Easter baskets. I feel really good!”