Panama City Rescue Mission feeds hundreds for Thanksgiving

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Every year on Thanksgiving, the Panama City Rescue Mission is home to not only its temporary residents, but others in need of a warm meal.

"We've been planning for about two months now," Matthew Mitchell, Chief Officer of Operations said.

More than 700 strangers were served, and enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal at the non-profit.

"Even this year we had to turn some volunteers away," Thurman Chambers, President of the Panama City Rescue Mission said.

Not only do local residents step in to give back, but those visiting the area did as well.

"Seems like it fits the meaning of the holiday," Kathleen Hern, volunteer from Atlanta said.

"It makes me feel special to know that I've been part of it," Chambers said.

For some of those less fortunate guests, this couldn't have come at a better time.

"It changes your whole attitude about these kinds of situations," Stan Hall, an attendant of the event. said. "I'm kind of thankful that I'm here."

Some say the feeling is mutual on this day of thanks.

"It's nice to meet people, and hear about their situations," Hern said.

From start to finish, those enjoying the meal don't lift a finger. Some say it's eye opening that the roles they're familiar with, are reversed.

"I know I'm privileged and fortunate enough to have my own home, and be able to provide meals for my family," Mitchell said. "Some people can't do that so I'm giving back."

"The commitment to be able to come out here on their Thanksgiving, where they could be home with their friends and family but instead they wait on us hand and foot, to me, it just speaks volumes," Hall said.

On this day every year, strangers become friends, the food becomes conversation, and those who give thanks for only having a little receive so much more.

"I want to thank everybody that did all of this, whoever you are," Hall said. "May God bless you, and return to you 100-fold that you've given to the people here today, amen."

The Panama City Rescue Mission says they're also thankful and grateful for all the support from the community.

Now, they'll be getting ready for the Christmas season.