'It saved my life': Helping the homeless have a happy Thanksgiving

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WPVI) -- "Sunday Breakfast has changed my life, has saved my life, and it makes me want to help others as well," said Jerome Arrington.

The North Philadelphia native found himself evicted and homeless about a month ago. Now, he is volunteering to distribute meals to others in need.

"I didn't know which way to turn, but God brought me to Sunday Breakfast and I've been blessed ever since," Arrington said.

Founded 142 years ago, Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission provides three meals a day to the Philadelphia homeless and hungry 365 days per year. In addition, it is the city's largest emergency homeless shelter for men.

"Throughout the pandemic, we certainly have kept our doors open," said Jeremy Montgomery, its President and CEO. "And that was even in the midst of an outbreak of positive cases in April and May."

Sunday Breakfast sustained a total of 57 positive cases for COVID-19. With increased safety measures and continued cooperation by guests, they have not had a positive case since May 7.

Although the shelter's doors stayed open, its dining room did not. Typically a cafeteria filled with camaraderie, it has been shuttered due to the pandemic.

"Instead, we offer 50 grab and go dinners at 5 o'clock every night," said Montgomery. "But, boy, if you know the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, we weren't going to let this holiday go by without doing something."

Montgomery's team is preparing to serve 1,000 homeless and hungry individuals come Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, November 26. Currently, they have plans to decorate their parking lot with stand-up tables to eat while socially distant.

"Delivering and dispersing meals in our parking lot is not the dignity and respect that we want to give to someone who is hungry," said Montgomery. "But we know that a hot Thanksgiving meal is the least that we can do."

Serving and preparing 1,000 meals has never come easy in years past. But it became especially difficult this year.

"We generally encourage community groups to donate to us canned goods, so instead, we've had to go virtual with that like most of other things," said Montgomery. Now, the organization is relying on cash donations to compensate for the lack of an in-person food drive.

In the meantime, guests like Jerome Arrington are going to continue volunteering and being thankful for what they have.

"It's just wonderful just being alive today," Arrington said.

To learn more about Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission or to donate, visit their website.

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