Real Help for Real Living

On Thanksgiving Day, the Charlotte Rescue Mission pulls out all the stops to make that day extra special for our community guests.

We begin at 6 a.m. with a hot breakfast. Through the generosity and partnership of the Dilworth Neighborhood Grill, homeless men will be able to order off a menu rather than be limited to eating scrambled eggs. After breakfast, they will move to our chapel or classroom and have a choice of movies. Around 8:30, we’ll make cell phones available for them to call home. At the same time, we roll out our coffee bar for a morning break.

At 11:30 a.m., we will begin serving our famous Thanksgiving meal. As our guests come to the dining room, they are greeted by a celebrity host or hostess. Over the years, we have been blessed to have WBT’s Al Gardner, and WCNC’s Sonja Gantt and Colleen Odegaard and TV weatherman Larry Sprinkle. Each of the hosts greets them as if they are entering Charlotte’s finest dining restaurant. Our guests are asked, “How many are in your party?” Then the host refers them to a server who seats them.

As they enter the dining room, the tables are set with table cloths, china, silverware and long stem goblets which have a cloth napkin folded in a fan coming from it. After being seated, a volunteer dressed in white shirt and black pants offers to get their beverage. While they are relaxing, having small talk with their table friends, the volunteer stands in line for the food. After the guest is finished eating, the volunteer clears the table and brings the dessert. After dining, the guest returns to watch more movies through the afternoon.

Hey Tony, I thought this was about a wedding. Hold on, I’m getting to that. We do this every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. So what happens the other 362 days of the year at the Charlotte Rescue Mission you ask?(no, I’m still asking about the wedding).

The passion of Charlotte Rescue Mission is changing lives. It serves men and women who are homeless or at risk of being homeless but all have an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Our life changing programs are 3 to 4 months long. Through substance abuse counseling, we achieve a completion rate of 45 percent for men and 74 percent for women versus the national average of 18 percent. A year later, 75 percent of our clients are still sober versus a national average of 25 percent.

OK, but you still haven’t told me about the wedding. Just after Labor Day, we held our annual Rebound men’s program alumni gathering. One story was of a man whose family wanted nothing to do with him. This included sisters and his children. To them, he was a lost cause. Four years ago he entered the Rebound men’s program. Two years after completing the program, his daughter asked him to walk her down the wedding aisle. Today, he has a grandson that his daughter trusts him to be with.

At the women’s program, Dove’s Nest, I have watched women struggling with substance abuse arrive having been disowned by her family. One woman completed the four-month program and graduated from the Mission to transitional housing. One year after entering the Dove’s Nest program, her family saw the changes in her and welcomed her home. She was able to return in time to help her son plan his wedding.

I love Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter because it provides the Mission with a chance to meet people where they are. We get to make the love of God so real to them, that they can touch it. It is also my prayer that the time spent at the Mission over the holiday will provide the chance for us to talk to them about entering the Charlotte Rescue Mission’s life changing programs. One of the Mission’s goals is for them to become contributing members of society. For one man, he did. He walked his daughter down the wedding aisle.

I’ll be back real soon. Until then, live well my friend.

Rev. Tony Marciano is the Executive Director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. The Mission provides a free 100-plus day Christian residential recovery program for men and women who homeless or at risk of being homeless and are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.