Merced Rescue Mission serves up Christmas Eve ham dinner to 640 people

tmiller@mercedsunstar.comDecember 24, 2013 

— The people of Merced came through again with donations of food and toys Tuesday for an annual holiday celebration in town, according to Merced Rescue Mission staff.

Phillip Schmauss, director of marketing, said the mission fed about 640 people who came to the American Legion Hall for a Christmas Eve meal featuring ham. The mission handed out more than 700 toys to youngsters. Schmauss said the mission tries not to take Merced’s generosity for granted.

“It does surprise us (every year), because you just never know,” he said.

Schmauss said 640 was a moderate turnout – more than last year, but fewer than the 1,000 or so drawn in years past. He said the strength of the economy seems to have an affect on how many folks show up.

“People are in a better position to take care of themselves,” he said. “Three years ago we had over 1,000 people.”

After the meal, the mission handed out clothing to anyone who asked. This time of year, jackets, sweaters and blankets are particularly popular, staff said.

The Rev. Prapai Wanlarbkam, who works for the mission, said the more than 700 toys were handed out two at a time to the children in attendance. He said more children received gifts Tuesday than last year.

The Christmas Eve meal, though very similar to the Thanksgiving meal, generally draws fewer people than its counterpart.

The Merced Rescue Mission, 1921 Canal St., is a former apartment building that feeds from 50 to 180 people up to three meals every day. The space where dozens are fed also serves as sleeping space and a classroom.

Staff said any leftover food donations are frozen and will feed the needy throughout the year.

For more information on the mission, call (209) 722-9269.

Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or tmiller@mercedsunstar.com.

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