DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Nearly 2,000 people received a free warm Thanksgiving feast Thursday at the Durham Rescue Mission.
Dozens of volunteers showed up Wednesday night to help unwrap and prepare the 150 turkeys to go on the smokers. Thursday morning, more volunteers arrived to continue the work ahead of lunch service.
"I think it just feels nice to know that we're helping them out in any way possible--giving them food, giving them nourishment," volunteer Landon Jenkins said.
This is the 48th year of Durham Rescue Mission's Thanksgiving event. Meals are available at noon and the event includes opportunities for children to play games and families to take home groceries and clothes.
"It is indescribable. It's different every year. We meet people sometimes; sometimes we don't, and that doesn't matter," volunteer Judy Davenport said.
The first 1,000 people to show received a $50 gift card.to DRM thrift stores.
A number of teenagers showed up to volunteer this year, including 17-year-old Wyatt Degraaf.
He was there because of his mom's work with the Durham nonprofit Jack and Jill.
"It's an organization where Black mothers get together and serve the community, and we're here because we want to help," Wyatt said.
Inside the rescue mission, volunteers like Ro Jackson packed up groceries which will be given away Thursday along with the $50 gift cards.
"You get to serve your community, that's what brought me here, the community and the companionship," said Jackson, who came with a group from Elevation Church.
The mission said it's seen a surge in the number of people looking for help this year. It is at 470 clients vs. this time last year when it had 360.
"People are hurting today, and our clients base alone is up 30% over last year's high and it's not even cold yet," said Rob Tart, CEO of the Durham Rescue Mission. "There's a lot of hurting out there now and people are suffering. It's hard to get by, rent rates are terrible so we need to help people."
Finding volunteers hasn't been a problem though.
The mission said it has seen fewer people give clothing to its thrift stores in the past year. It is also putting out the call now for new, unwrapped toys to be donated before Christmas.