SAN BERNARDINO, CA- “It’s not about the food, it’s about human connection, feeling that they belong and included,” said The Way World Outreach Senior Pastor Marco Garcia. “What’s missing in a lot of people’s lives are relationships, and we’re here to fill that gap and to show them they are loved.”
Garcia bent down and placed his hand on a woman’s shoulder to pray privately with her during the 12th annual Thanksgiving luncheon on Tuesday, November 22 where over 1,500 people gathered at The Way’s downtown mission in San Bernardino.
Nearly 500 volunteers bustled from the kitchen to the courtyard and main dining hall to dish and serve plates brimming with turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, corn and stuffing to the area’s underserved population.
According to Garcia, the volunteers gain as much, if not more, joy than the recipients.
“It’s a blessing to serve others and to feel that love and sense of family,” said Vanessa Miranda, celebrating 3 years of sobriety from a 12-year methamphetamine addiction with help from The Way. “I am so thankful that I am healthy today and able to give back and show others that they are cared for.”
A homeless mother and her two young children who found shelter by means of The Way two weeks prior to the Thanksgiving event were eager volunteers.
“Her 10-year-old son told me how much joy he was getting through service to others and that he will never forget this experience,” Garcia said.
Dozens of gift baskets filled with groceries were raffled away. Winner Scott Collins, who lives at the Gibson House for Men battling drug addiction, gave his basket away to a stranger, Eddie Weaver, because he felt moved to do so. Others followed suit.
That same sentiment of generosity, inclusion and connection was palpable amid the lively conversation and laughter among strangers bound by prayer and breaking bread.
“People aren’t looking for a handout, but a hand up,” Cuencas said. “This event shows the nature of this community, one that comes together in communion, love and service.”