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'We want you to come in and feel like family': Mission sticks to familiar traditions

Just like in your own home, preparations for this meal started long before Thanksgiving Day.

Just like in your own home, invitations went out ahead of time, as staff and guests of The Mission at Kern County canvassed the Old Town Kern neighborhood and beckoned people to join in a warm dinner.

Just like in your own home, traditions were kept: the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans, fresh rolls, and pumpkin pie.

Sure, we all have variations on the theme — tamales or lasagna or pierogi may grace your table — but the spirit of the holiday holds true: "We want you to come in and feel like family," said Carlos Baldovinos, executive director of The Mission.

And so it was on Thursday, when some 600 holiday meals were to be served to clients of The Mission's homeless intervention services and addiction recovery programs, the surrounding community, and really anyone who showed up hungry for food or love. All were welcome, and volunteers arrived in force to make it happen.

"We want everyone to feel equally loved," said Jamie Durham, director of community development at The Mission.

At one festive table, 6-year-old Paisley Evans touched her cheek to her mother's hand as Marlene Evans shared her journey.

"I was homeless and struggling with my own selfish needs," the 41-year-old mother of four said. She said she was stubborn, but the women's program at The Mission got her "cleaned up," safe, sheltered and well on her way to reestablishing relationships. She'll graduate from the 18-month program in April, she said.

Courtney Mairel, 23, found family here.

"I'd been couch surfing for like five years and I finally found something to call home," said Mairel, who shared dinner with her 3-year-old daughter, Kendall Mairel, and has been part of the women's and children's program at The Mission for a year.

Before then, she had been at a hotel, and knew something needed to change. She Googled "women and children" — and there it was. She found The Mission, where she said she discovered people who helped her change, enrolled in college courses and, she emphasized, where she found God and Jesus Christ.

Christmas music filled the air — you can't be too early! Tables and racks were full of coats, socks and hats for those who needed them. Prayers were offered over the meal, and in a tent outside the Christian Education Chapel for people seeking a one-on-one spiritual boost.

Because we're all yearning for a little love, in words or actions. A little peace. A little familiarity.

Some families find those Thanksgiving feelings around a formal holiday table, replete with candles and the fancy cutlery and carved turkey. Some find that playing basketball or football on a brisk autumn morning. Some watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in their pajamas.

Just like in your own home, familiar traditions — whatever they may be — were found at The Mission at Kern County on Thanksgiving Day.

Coronavirus Cases widget

  • Positive Cases Among Kern Residents: 158,270

  • Deaths: 1,828

  • Recovered and Presumed Recovered Residents: 150,950 

  • Percentage of all cases that are unvaccinated: 92.04

  • Percentage of all hospitalizations that are unvaccinated: 92.62 Updated: 12/3/2021.

  • Source: Kern County Public Health Services Department