Heaping plates of ham, sweet potatoes, mixed vegetables and gravy were carried from the kitchen to the tables Sunday at the Schenectady City Mission.
Each table, covered with a pastel colored tablecloth, was full for the mission’s annual Easter dinner at the Wallace M. Campbell Dining Center.
The Easter Dinner has been going on for 10 years, according to Director of Development Liz Chamberlain, who said 181 meals were served inside the center.
The mission was one of the few in the area to host an Easter dinner, which executive director Michael Saccocio called “unique and special.”
There have been many new faces at the mission this year during the week and during the holidays, a sign of the grim economic climate, Saccocio said. However, there are always familiar faces, which Saccocio likes to see because one of the Mission’s goals is to create a community atmosphere.
Robert Rood, one of the regulars at the mission, said he would rather spend his holiday there than with his relatives who live out of the area because he thinks of the people at the mission as family, too.
Nicole Griffin, of Schenectady, brought her family to the mission for Easter dinner. Her three children, Nayquan, 10, and twins Terrell and Tanaya both 8, said they each received Easter baskets when they woke up with candy, books and toys and they were happy to have a big ham meal.
Griffin said the mission is a “blessing” because without it her family would often go without dinner.
“It’s really a blessing to have somewhere like this to go,” she said.
The 50 volunteers Sunday served about 500 meals between sit down and takeout, Saccocio said.
Those who attended the dinner were free to take home leftovers, which Saccocio said is essential to any holiday meal.
Jeff Wood, his wife Dawn and his 15-year-old son Zach, of Glenville, were all volunteering at the Mission Sunday. Jeff Wood said his family regularly volunteers at the mission, especially on holidays.
“We’ve gotten to know some of the people and it’s nice for them to know that there are people out there, and not just employees of the mission, that care about them,” he said.
Preparing the Easter meal was a feat for the volunteers, Saccocio said, because the mission already serves four meals per day six days a week.
Brad Kimball, a regular at the mission, and Blake Mulvey were sitting opposite each other at the end of a table eating their ham dinner Sunday. The two had just met, but were already involved in a lively conversation.
Mulvey had traveled to Schenectady from California and was looking for a job. Kimball, who has lived in Schenectady for nearly 60 years, had been to California many times and the two were sharing stories.
Mulvey said he was having a good Easter holiday sharing a good meal with strangers, and Kimball expressed the same sentiment.
“You can always be with friends during the holidays, but sometimes it’s nice to be with people that don’t really know you,” Kimball said. “You don’t have to bring a gift, you just bring yourself.”
The Capital City Rescue Mission in Albany also served an Easter dinner to those in need Sunday afternoon. The Mission was expected to serve 1,400 meals.