Every day is Thanksgiving at the St. Vincent de Paul mission on Baker Street. Every day, that is, except the actual day the rest of us celebrate as Thanksgiving.

Volunteers at the charity thrift store/church feed the homeless, the transient and the destitute virtually every day of the year, but Wednesday morning, in the mist of a late November rain, they moved back the calendar a day and fed 200 people, mostly men, a Thanksgiving meal with all the fixings, right down to the Costco pumpkin pie.

They started lining up before 8:30 a.m. and by 9 the queue had wrapped around the perimeter of the dining room and continued outside to a covered patio.

"The line is back here," Javier Rizo, the center coordinator, said over and over again as another weary soul appeared, draped in a garbage bag or some other makeshift rain proofing.

"The line is back here," he said again to another man who had practically wrapped himself around the tall propane heater in the center of the patio. "You gotta pick one, heating or eating."

Every day, 7 to 8 a.m., Rizo and colleagues serve coffee and pastries, and at 9 it's breakfast. At noon it's lunch and at 2 a snack. That schedule changes only for special days like Thanksgiving.

Thirty members of the Knights of Columbus were on hand Wednesday.

It's big-hearted men (and women) like that who make the program go.

"People donate money and we use that to buy food," Rizo said. "Or they donate food. Sometimes our restaurants are like, 'Oh, we had some leftovers,' and they bring it to us. I have people constantly coming to volunteer to help cook, to help wipe tables, to help whatever."

"We thank them all," Rizo said, in a particularly timely expression of gratitude.

Contact The Californian’s Robert Price at 661-395-7399, rprice@bakersfield.com or on Twitter: @stubblebuzz. His column appears on Sundays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; the views expressed are his own.

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