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Feeding the Homeless

North Carolina rescue mission needs help

By Jacob Smith

November 26 , 2008
Jacob Smith at the Piedmont Rescue Mission. Burlington, North Carolina Tuesday, November 18, 2008. (Photo courtesy of Jacob Smith)
Jacob Smith at the Piedmont Rescue Mission. Burlington, North Carolina Tuesday, November 18, 2008. (Photo courtesy of Jacob Smith)

When you walk down the hall of the Piedmont Rescue Mission in Burlington, North Carolina, you can see the battle scars: walls with patchy repairs, sealed windows, and doors that no longer open.

"The building is old," says administrative assistant Justin Holden. "We are constantly making repairs."

Piedmont Rescue Mission was established in 1982. Its services include a community thrift store and annual holiday dinners on Easter, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It is one of the few organizations of its kind left in this area. After I spoke with executive director Tony Honeycutt, it was clear to me that Piedmont has felt the pinch of a slowing economy.

"Funding is down this year," he said. "So far our regular monthly giving is down about 30 percent, so it has affected us quite a bit."

Piedmont operates solely on donations and charitable contributions from community residents and local businesses. They do not receive any state or federal funding.

The mission has offered a traditional Thanksgiving meal for 18 years now. They are expecting at least 180 people at this year's meal, compared with 100 people last year.

On the Grounds

I paid a visit to Piedmont last week for a tour of the facilities. Although old, the building is clean. I could smell the cleaning products in the air.  A military-style bunkroom was lined with beds. Piedmont maintains a conventional-looking library, Bible study lounge, and a baby-needs storage room.

Making my way down the hall, the building started telling its age. With each step I could hear a creak or a pop. The closer I got to the kitchen area the smell in the air changed from soap to food, with the lingering odors of a just finished midday meal.

Entering the kitchen, I was surrounded by the sound of fellowship and clanging dishes. In the kitchen a group of three men cleaned as they talked and laughed with each other.

The Piedmont kitchen looks like the kitchen of any restaurant, with commercial-grade stainless steel equipment and appliances. Everything came from local donations.

In the dining area are two long rows of tables and chairs. It looks and feels like a school lunchroom. One side of the room has windows looking onto a courtyard.

Residents of the Alamance Rescue Mission, which is part of Piedmont, make up the kitchen staff. Linny was head cook when I visited. I asked him how Piedmont has affected his life.

"It has done miracles for me," he said. "Piedmont has put my family back together."

None of this could happen without the help of community members and local businesses, Holden explained.

Piedmont currently needs about $50,000 for their programs.

When asked what kids could do to help, Honeycutt offered a couple of suggestions. He said kids could help by raising money or by simply getting out in the community and taking up donations for clothes or items people no longer want or need.

"We are hoping and praying that Christmas is going to turn it around for us and people are going to start giving," he said.

To learn more about Piedmont, you can visit its web site.

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