When 24-year-old Jill Pastena first came to the Boston Rescue Mission, her case manager said, she was shaky and barely spoke. Pastena, who was then addicted to drugs and alcohol, has been sober for the past four months. Speaking to a crowd for the Boston Rescue Mission’s Day of Thanks on Sunday afternoon, she thanked the Mission for saving her life.
“I’m so blessed,” said Pastena, who is originally from Woburn. “I probably wouldn’t be alive today and that’s why we need places like this.”
Hundreds gathered at the Boston Rescue Mission on Sunday for the Day of Thanks, an annual Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless of Boston. Governor Deval Patrick was among public officials in attendance and helped serve meals. Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who usually volunteers at the dinner, could not be present because he is hospitalized for a series of ailments including an upper respiratory infection .
Eric Grenfell-Muir, a spokesman for the Boston Rescue Mission, said 450 pounds of turkey, 150 pounds of mashed potatoes, 400 pounds of dinner rolls, and 50 assorted pies were served. Also, those who regularly go to the food bank were given Thanksgiving food baskets filled with turkeys and other holiday trimmings.
“We are really blessed as an organization,and we are sending out as many blessings as we can,” Grenfell-Muir said.
Megan Fisher, Pastena’s case manager, said the event is about more than serving a meal: It is about prioritizing the homeless and treating them as family.
“It’s such a privilege to be a part of [the Mission] and see lives change,” Fisher said.
Clevan Richards, who has been living at the Long Island Shelter and attended the Day of Thanks, said he is frustrated with public officials for not doing enough to help the homeless.
“This is all a show,” he said of the dinner.
Richards, 33, said he is so poor that he cannot even buy a bus pass. But the last thing he wants is pity. “Don’t feel sad for us,” he said. “Help us.”
Eric Jones, 34, who also lives at the Long Island Shelter, said he became homeless after failing to pay back his student loans. His luck worsened when he was attacked with an ice pick when he was in his late 20s, causing him to go blind. Then in June, his 11-month-old daughter died of kidney failure.
Jones said he appreciated the meal and those who volunteered at Sunday’s event. He was also glad that the governor came to show his support.
“I’m happy Deval Patrick cares,” Jones said.
Tasha Jansen, who is 25 years old and lives at the Pine Street Inn, a South End homeless shelter, also said she appreciated Patrick’s presence at the dinner. She said it made her feel “like I’m wanted.”
“I’m very thankful,” Jansen said. “Because if it wasn’t for [the Mission] then we’d have nothing to eat and nowhere to lay our heads.”