RALEIGH Deakin Redding quietly eyed the retired gentleman who answered the door of his third floor residence at the Sir Walter Raleigh Apartments in downtown Raleigh on Thursday.
Deakin’s mother, Viki Redding, told the gentleman they had brought him a Thanksgiving meal. She urged her 6-year-old son, a first-grader at Bugg Elementary, to step forward. Deakin peeked up shyly, his fingers tightly gripped around a brown-paper shopping bag.
Then the gentleman, leaning on a cane in the hallway in front of his door, introduced himself.
“Well hello,” he said in a booming voice. “I’m Deacon James Edward McDonald of the Greater Pentacostal Faith Center and Church International at 414 Rose Lane. My pastor is Bishop C.E. Cook.”
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At that, the little Deakin stepped forward and gave the big deacon a holiday dinner of turkey, dressing, sweet potato casserole, corn, green beans and mashed potatoes with gravy.
Deakin’s father, Fred Redding, handed McDonald another shopping bag that held peanut butter, cereal, oatmeal and coffee.
“It’s designed to get folks over the weekend,” said Viki Redding, marketing director at the Raleigh Rescue Mission, as she snapped photos of Deakin and the deacon together.
McDonald was among the more than 800 people who had hot, tasty holiday meals delivered to their door by a small army of volunteers with the Raleigh Rescue Mission’s Gobbles to Go program.
The rescue mission partners with Meals on Wheels, a city non-profit that provides food to those in need, to deliver holiday meals to people throughout the city who may otherwise go hungry.
“Probably 80 percent of the meals are going to Meals on Wheels clients,” said Holly Cook, director of volunteer services at the rescue mission. “The meals today are going to low-income families, people who are unable to get out and the elderly.”
Lynn Daniell, the rescue mission’s executive director, said it was “several years ago” when the agency realized that there were people in the community, especially the elderly and infirm, who were not able to get out for a holiday meal. And so the Gobbles to Go outreach was started.
Cook, said the program is now in its 11th year. Along with a single-serving holiday meal, the volunteers also deliver a bag of groceries to help feed people throughout the holiday weekend.
By 8 a.m. Thursday, 45 volunteers had gathered in the basement dining hall and kitchen of the rescue mission to start packaging meals. Another 48 volunteers were on standby to deliver the meals after they were packaged.
Kirby Smith, the rescue mission’s head chef, said staff and volunteers began cooking 100 turkeys days before, along with the 300 pounds apiece of potatoes and sweet potatoes.
“I had eight volunteers who worked 12 hours a day for two or three days,” Smith said.
On Thursday, Smith and his team arrived at the rescue mission at 4 a.m. to put “the finishing touches” on the day’s meal: preparing the gravy and reheating some of the items cooked earlier.
The drivers started delivering the meals around 9:30 a.m. and had finished by early afternoon.
One of the volunteers, Shila Mallard, was eager to help out again.
“Motivation is where I come from,” said Mallard, who works in sales. “We want to do this again on Christmas Eve.”
McDonald, who grew up on a farm in Spring Lake, said he moved to Raleigh 40 years ago and has lived for the past 17 years in his third-floor apartment in downtown Raleigh. He’s a retired cafeteria worker and was looking forward to the Panthers-Cowboys game later in the day. He was appreciative of the holiday meal delivery.
“Well, if they want to come by and bring me food,” he said with a little smile and a shrug of the shoulders. “Here lately, folks been bringing me so much food, I don’t have to cook no more.”