FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The Rescue Mission in downtown Fort Wayne will be serving more than 4,000 carry-out meals this coming Easter Sunday on April 9 from noon to 3 p.m. at its location on East Washington Boulevard, across from Noble Senior Living.

It will be open to everyone in the community and people will be allowed four carry-out meals each for Easter. The meals will include ham, turkey, potato salad, green beans and desserts that includes sugar cream pie.

The organization served about 2,500 meals last year and this year are increasing the amount of meals served this year due to higher demand. Rev. Donovan Coley, president and chief executive officer of The Rescue Mission, said the reasons for the increase in meals served is that they are housing three times the amount of people than usual and the fact that the economy is having a negative impact on people in the city.

“Part of our job is to help the poor and the underserved,” Coley said. “We want people to come here and know they will be getting home cooked meals, just like they would get from their family.”

The Rescue Mission has four chefs on staff that make the meals for people not just during the holidays, but year round. Prepping for Easter involves day of making meals with the help from volunteers.

Meals have been served at The Rescue Mission for Easter for more than 20 years. They used to do sit-down meals but found that often people would be waiting in line for longer and sometimes wouldn’t get a chance to get a meal. They started doing carry-out meals during the pandemic and have continued doing so because they found they were able to serve more people.

“People get in line here to receive their meals and with carry-outs, we’re able to move things faster and therefore, we are able to serve more people,” he said. “We also get people who will drive here to pick up meals.”

He said there are lots of people who are not able to make ends meet and can’t afford basic necessities. He referred to the lack of affordable housing in the city where even people who are employed are not able to afford to pay rent. Some of the residents who stay at the mission are currently employed.

Programs are available at the mission for both men and women. Underserved people have access to emergency services at the mission in case they don’t have a place to stay. They offer short term programs where people are allowed to stay for 30 days and have access to resources like life coaches and mental health services.

Depending on people’s needs, they also have access to long term programs where they are allowed to stay at the mission for 6-18 months. Transportation services and vocational programs are also available to them so they can learn the tools they need to support themselves.

“People can get access to medication and support at the Rescue Mission,” he said. “We operate a thrift store at our building as a vocational incubator to help them learn different job skills.”

He believes hope begins with a meal and that when people come to the mission, they are coming to a community of compassion.

“We’re like a family here. This is a place where people can know we are there for them,” he said.

Coley knows many of the people staying there by name, helping to create a sense of family. He’s heard people come up to him and thank him for what the organization does.

“We take zero dollars from the government so we rely on the community to help support us,” he said. “We have local groups who have stepped in to help us continue to do these things.”