Rescue Mission brings Christmas to the needy

Dec. 24, 2012 @ 04:57 PM

The Rev. Ernie Mills was talking to a reporter Monday when a woman walked up to him, hugged his neck and said: “God bless you for this. Thank you so much!”
She was thanking Mills for the Christmas giveaway at the mission’s campus on East Main Street – a yearly tradition that’s brought as many smiles to children as a sleigh full of Santas.
“I love it,” 76-year-old Letsie Rogers said as she held a bag of free groceries in one hand and a cane in the other. “I thank God for the people who started this.”
Those people are Mills and his wife, Gail, who founded the Durham Rescue Mission in 1974. This Christmas is special for them, because they are weeks away from opening the $4.5 million Center For Hope at the East Main Street center, which will increase their capacity to house and feed the homeless.
Monday’s giveaway included 12,000 toys, 7,000 articles of clothing and 150 turkeys.
One person who won a 20-pound turkey was Albert Williams, 44, who plans to put it to good use.
“We’re going to cook him tonight, and give thanks for him … for Christmas,” Williams said on Monday. “This was a surprise, and it’s needed, because I have 11 grandkids, and I’m going to have 27 people at my house … so this comes right on time.”
Nine-year-old Felipe Hernandez won a bag of toys, including a Nintendo game, at the arcade “rigged” so no one left empty-handed. His smile said it all.
“I feel happy and really excited,” he said. “Every time I want something at Christmas, Santa comes and brings it to me.”
Latoya Edwards carefully balanced a plate full of turkey, dressing, green beans and corn and a bag of toys as she looked for a place to sit.
She said her children will choose the toys they want, then share the rest with their cousins.
Edwards has been out of work all year due to a workplace accident, and was on crutches Monday after having surgery two weeks ago.
Without the giveaway, she said, she probably wouldn’t have had the money for Christmas presents.
“This is really good, and my kids are happy about,” she said.
Kamel Bradley had his hands full as he tried not to drop two pieces of pie – cherry and apple – as he walked across the campus.
Bradley has two children – ages 3 and 5 – and also carried a bulging bag of toys that included a remote-controlled car and Crayola drawing set.
“This has helped me tremendously,” said Bradley, who was laid off from his construction job six months ago. “This brings a lot of people together, and you see guys you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s a beautiful thing.”