During just two days in late December, the Nashville Rescue Mission will serve some 5,000 meals, for free, to the city’s most impoverished people. Those meals will comprise some 250 hams, more than 400 cans of green beans, about 500 pounds of potatoes, and roughly 450 pies.
“The holidays can be especially hard on the homeless, a reminder of sorts of just how bad their circumstances are,” mission spokesman Cliff Tredway said.
So the mission is planning its annual Christmas Eve and Christmas Day feasts. Each will start at noon, wiht the mission’s modestly sized staff working alongside hundreds of volunteers to prepare and serve the feasts.
“Volunteers are the heartbeat of our organization, and we pretty much turn the keys over to them for a few days and get out of the way,” he said. “The week of Christmas alone, nearly 1,500 volunteers will arrive to prepare for the big day.”
The rescue mission’s two Christmas meals are also intended to represent the end of 12 months of citizens donating their time, clothing and food — about 682,000 meals’ worth — to the downtown-based nonprofit. But the holidays are a boom time for the organization: According to Tredway, more than half of the mission’s entire annual operating budget comes from donations that come in during November and December. The organization gets no direct government money.
The mission’s efforts over the years have not gone unnoticed, nor failed to spur similar charitable work. For example, The Key Alliance, the nonprofit fundraising arm of the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission, held a highly successful Project Homeless Connect event last week at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. Approximately 1,350 homeless individuals and families — as well as those on the brink of homelessness — received thousands of services from more than 70 service providers, event organizers said.
“The solution to homelessness is housing,” said Clifton Harris, executive director of The Key Alliance.
At the Nashville Rescue Mission this Christmas, that solution will start with a warm meal for some and a renewed sense of community for others.