Many wore winter hats, some carried backpacks and a few sat in wheelchairs, but they all came as they were Sunday to celebrate Easter together.
About 100 of the Capital Region’s most needy filled the chapel at the Capital City Rescue Mission in Albany for a religious service Sunday morning before enjoying an early Easter dinner.
Organizers expected to give out about 1,700 meals for dine-in and takeout throughout the day at the mission headquarters at 259 S. Pearl St.
“The ham was so good. I ate it first,” said mission guest Fiore Poera. “This is a dynamite place. I always enjoy coming here.”
In addition to ham, Poera’s meal included mashed potatoes, assorted vegetables, a dinner roll and a slice of apple pie.
Perry Jones, the executive director of the mission, led the service with readings from the Bible and spiritual songs.
“It’s really the poor and the disenfranchised of the whole community that need a place to celebrate,” Jones said. “If they weren’t here, they probably wouldn’t be at a service.”
Jones said that the mission spent about $4,000 on the Easter meal, including $1,000 for ham and another $1,000 for apple pie.
Easter is the day that most Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“Our message for Easter from us to them is new life, new hope,” Jones said. “They are some of the hardest hit and broken.”
Started in 1949, the Capital City Rescue Mission provides food, shelter and clothing to the homeless and needy in Albany. Its $2 million annual budget is all privately funded, mostly by donations from individuals.
The mission has 120 beds and an overflow capacity for about 200 people to sleep every night.
The programs and services at the mission are based around the principles of Christianity.
“To me, this is the Gospel right here. This is what Christ calls his believers to do,” said Pasquale Brescia, a full-time resident assistant at the mission. “The disciples fed 5,000.”
Brescia went through a nine-month ministry program at the mission two years ago before getting a job there. He now helps people who are staying at the mission find apartments, jobs and education.
He said that he was depressed and close to being homeless before he came to the mission.
“Drinking was definitely taking me to a place I didn’t want to be,” Brescia said. “I was constantly in and out of work.”
Outside the mission, Matt Malossi of Delmar put ham in plastic foam containers, an Easter dinner for visitors to take home.
He volunteers every Easter at the mission with his wife, his two sons and several other family members.
“We’re blessed, and we want to give back to the community,” Malossi said. “We can do it as a family.”
Later Sunday afternoon, the City Mission of Schenectady served about 250 meals in its Wallace Campbell Dining Center at 512 Smith St. and passed out another 350 takeout meals.
“Our goal for the Easter dinner is to have . . . a family-type atmosphere and just give people good food, good fellowship,” said Tim Castle, the operations director at the Schenectady mission.
“What we try to do is make this more like a restaurant. We’re trying to get people to get around a table and talk to each other.”
Lloyd Noland, food director at the City Mission of Schenectady, prepared 60 hams to go with yams and mixed vegetables.
“It’s a great sight because I’ve worked here and I see the people every day,” Noland said. “It’s just like one big family.”
A total of 70 volunteers prepared and served the food at the Schenectady mission. One volunteer, Beth Putnam, went around the room playing her violin while people ate.
Putnam teaches string instruments in the Mohonasen Central School District in Rotterdam.
“Any work you do is God’s work,” Putnam said. “You just do it out of love for everyone else.”