ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — On Saturday, the Rescue Mission of Roanoke hosted its annual ‘Christmas Feast,’ providing a place to go and hot meals for those in need.
“It’s funny, I’m getting choked up,” said volunteer Niles Comer.
Comer is volunteering at the mission’s feast this year, marking a full-circle moment.
“Thirty years ago, my dad was getting a meal here on Christmas Day before he died,” said Comer.
Comer has made volunteering around this time of year a holiday tradition.
“I’ve been doing this for, now, two years but this is my fourth holiday,” said Comer.
His father, along with two of his brothers were homeless and in need, like many of the people who were invited to today’s feast. Comer lost all of them.
“I don’t have any family left, so I come here and spend it with this family,” said Comer.
According to Comer, this family should not be judged.
“I do it to remind myself I’m only one bad choice away from being here,” said Comer. “I’m never above needing the services of a place like the Mission.”
Lee Clark, CEO of the Rescue Mission of Roanoke, also knows this day is bigger than just the meals being served.
“If we can provide a good hot nutritious meal for a person, it helps them to get connected. It helps them to get connected to the other services we offer,” said Clark.
Those services include medical care and addiction programs, which can open the door for people to receive the help they need.
“All those things come together to help that person who may be feeling isolated, afraid, unsure of what’s next. We’re here for those people in a time of crisis,” Clark said.
For Comer, who has dealt with plenty of adversity, volunteering is his way of thanking the mission.
“It’s really powerful to me to be able to come back here and say thank you to the Rescue Mission. Also, to say ‘look, I’m still here. I made it,'” expressed Comer. “I made it with the help of a lot of other people.”
The Rescue Mission of Roanoke fed at least 500 people during the feast.