At Detroit ministry, diners thankful 'to be part of community'

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Highland Park — There was no shortage of grateful diners at Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, which offered Thanksgiving dinner for the folks who look at the ministries as a path to independence Thursday.

At Oasis, an emergency shelter with transitional and permanent housing for men run by the ministries in Highland Park, people gathered around the television, screaming as the Detroit Lions lost a critical field goal to the Buffalo Bills in the final seconds of the Thanksgiving Day game. 

In the cafeteria, prayer is spoken before each meal and the song, “Just the Two of Us,” by Bill Withers and Grover Washington Jr., was piped in over the loud speaker. 

Ministry residents strolled in for Thanksgiving dinner, prepared with donated food, which allowed chefs Trevor Harvey and Willie Harper to serve glazed ham;, macaroni and cheese; corn bread stuffing;, fried chicken; pot roast; turkey legs; and green beans, which were the first to run out.  For dessert, peach cobbler and birthday cake. 

From left, Volunteer Anthony Deegan and cook Trevor Harvey serve a Thanksgiving meal to Gerald "Meech" Richards, 54, at its at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries emergency shelter in Highland Park in Detroit on Nov. 24, 2022.

“Far too many people are not grateful for the things they have, even when they don’t have anything. Instead of saving money, they use to get high,” said Harvey, who has worked at the ministry for 10 years. “Many depend on us because they get to know us but bottom line is, you shouldn’t leave here the way you came in.”

At Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, anyone can ask for help, Harvey said. That help, on Thanksgiving, comes by way of a meal that tells residents that family can be where you share a meal.

“For the ones that are grateful, it makes me feel good," Harvey said. "If I see a smile on their face, they tell me how good the food was, I know I did my job." 

From left, Cook Willie Harper, volunteer Anthony Deegan and cook Trevor Harvey worked together to prepare the Thanksgiving meal they are serving for men, women and walk-ins at its at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries emergency shelter in Highland Park in Detroit on Nov. 24, 2022.

Compared to previous years, Harvey said he wasn’t sure if they were going to get enough donations this year with inflation, and scarcity of meat and other groceries. 

“Sure enough, four organizations showed up this morning with loads of food to donate, and we were able to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner today,” he said. “We don’t do any shopping. We solely rely on donations.”

This was the first year Gerald “Meech” Richards ate Thanksgiving dinner at Oasis. He joined John Rice and Tommie Jefferson, men who have lived at Oasis for the last six years. 

From left, Tommie Jefferson, 48, John Rice, 59, and Gerald "Meech" Richards, 54, talk about what they are thankful for while they eat a Thanksgiving meal at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries emergency shelter in Highland Park in Detroit on Nov. 24, 2022.

Last year, Richards ate with his extended family, but that wasn’t an option this time around. He finished work at Streetside Deli in Metro Detroit late Wednesday and waited in a short line to join Oasis’ dinner. 

“I’m thankful to just be part of a community. For 54 years of life,” he said. “And having the best Thanksgiving dinner, especially among friends.”

The only thing that could have tasted better is if the Lions had made that field goal, he said. 

Anthony Deegan joined as a volunteer who helped cook the missions' holiday meals with Harvey. Deegan said he was alone this Thanksgiving and saw it as a good time to give back. 

Deon Jackson, 55, enjoys the Thanksgiving meal at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries emergency shelter in Highland Park in Detroit on Nov. 24, 2022.

“I’ve been wanting to do this and it was finally a good time,” Deegan said. “I’ve been blessed and wanted to bless others.”

srahal@detroitnews.com