Updated:ORLANDO, Fla. —
For the second year in a row, a local rescue mission served a record number of Thanksgiving meals to the homeless on Wednesday.
For Chris Pickens, a warm Thanksgiving meal came with a smile, and a brand
"I bless the people here who come and help serve the Thanksgiving dinner. It's a great thing they do," said Pickens.
The need is great. Demand for the holiday meals is up 12 percent this year, rescue mission leaders said. They served 1,400 men, women and children
with everyone treated with the same respect and dignity whether they've been on the street for years, or never known hunger before.
"Because it could be any of us walking through that door needing a hot meal for
Thanksgiving, needing companionship and friendship on Thanksgiving," said Amanda Fewless of the Orlando Union Rescue Mission.
One-hundred fifty volunteers handed out new clothes, children's toys, and holiday meals.
"It was really an awesome opportunity we were given to be here today. I'm thankful for the chance to give back," said volunteer Violet Durm.
For some, like Mary O'Neal, they give back, because they've been there themselves. They have depended on rescue missions for a meal.
"I tell a lot of people my story, what I've gone through in life," said O'Neal. "To let them know that things can get better. You've just got to have faith."
By one estimate, a third of central Florida's homeless are children.
Volunteers handed out stuffed animals and toys to kids
Wednesday, in addition to giving them coats and a Thanksgiving dinner.