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Holland Rescue Mission throws record-breaking Thanksgiving Banquet

More than 1,300 people pack into Hope College's field house Wednesday night for the Great Thanksgiving Banquet.
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
More than 1,300 people pack into Hope College's field house Wednesday night for the Great Thanksgiving Banquet.

Nearly 500 volunteers served a hot meal to more than 1,300 people in need Wednesday night. That’s a record for the Holland Rescue Missionwhich has held the annual dinner for nearly 20 years. The non-profit runs a number of programs to help lift people from poverty.

Volunteers in clean white aprons hoist large trays with several plates full of turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy. One after another they run the trays from the serving line to the dinner tables where other volunteers host their guests; making conversation and joining in the feast.

“It’s not just its here’s your food good-bye thank you,” said volunteer coordinator Martha Wing. “It’s sitting down and the blessing of having conversation around the table and being able to have relationships,” Wing added, “To me that’s the blessing.”

“Holland is a big enough small town that people really can help their neighbor in very real ways,” said Holland Rescue Mission Executive Director Darryl Bartlett. He says host volunteers may not know their guests at first “but they want to do something to help their neighbor.”

Melissa Kroll says the mission’s “life skills” program helped get her back on her feet when she moved to Holland 12 years ago.

“I loved being there. I mean it’s hard and they’re tough,” Kroll laughed; ribbing a volunteer she met through the program. “I actually am thankful for everything they’ve done for me because of they wouldn’t have been so tough on me I don’t think I would’ve gotten as far as I did today,” Kroll said.

Kroll is holding down two part-time jobs. But she’s thankful for the turkey dinner and the package of personal care items, like soap and shampoo, which the mission volunteers sent home with her.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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