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    Boston Rescue Mission serves hot meals to the needy during its annual Day of Thanks

    Johnny Mason was served a hot Thanksgiving meal Sunday at the Boston Rescue Mission’s annual Day of Thanks.
    Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
    Johnny Mason was served a hot Thanksgiving meal Sunday at the Boston Rescue Mission’s annual Day of Thanks.

    After 25 years, Burgess Gardner “BG” Hodges III is hanging up his apron, but not before one last Day of Thanks.

    This year, as he has for decades, Hodges, a 70-year-old teacher from Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., arrived at the Boston Rescue Mission Friday with seven eager, young high school students and three alumni ready to work.

    Students with the school club, called Faith Community, slept on the floor of the shelter, seasoned turkeys, and helped staff prepare for its annual holiday feast called Day of Thanks, always held the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

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    “We made up all the food baskets yesterday and then today assemble everything,” said Hodges, who plans to retire at the end of this school year. “Downstairs, I’ve got a kitchen crew that cut up 50 turkeys and does all that stuff and 500 pieces of pie this morning and gets that side done. We were ready by about 10:30 a.m. It’s a good crew.”

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    On Sunday, city and state officials including Marylou Sudders, secretary of Health and Human Services, joined volunteers as they served hot Thanksgiving meals to hundreds. They also gave out 198 baskets that each contained a turkey with all the trimmings for families to take home.

    The atmosphere was joyful with the light harmony of a violin and cello duet filling the first floor along with vibrant conversation, laughter, and grateful “thank you’s.”

    “It makes you feel like you’re one of them. Like we’re all part of a big family,” said Lakisha Hayes, 39, a single mother with three children. “It’s like the pre-Thanksgiving meal before you get to your mom’s food. It gets you in the spirit.”

    Lynn Alexis, 17, of Malden was excited to be spending quality time with her mother, Ginette Alexis, 47, who recently arrived from Haiti. This will be her mom’s first Thanksgiving.

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    “It’s a big thing for her,” said Lynn Alexis. “She sees how American people love sharing things, loving people.”

    Food service manager Dennis Gaskell said he treats anyone who walks through their doors like a guest.

    That’s how he felt when he arrived at the mission homeless and seeking help decades ago. What he found, he said, was love.

    “The best way to get someone to like you is to give them a full belly,” said Gaskell, 63. “You give someone a meal and they’re happy. That’s what this is all about.”

    Cristela Guerra can be reached at cristela.guerra@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.