The giving spirit of the holiday season could be felt throughout the Central Coast Rescue Mission’s annual Christmas celebration Thursday as volunteers served a special holiday meal, families got a chance to put presents under their tree and children received a holiday gift.

The Santa Maria Veterans' Memorial Community Center was filled with the aroma of what may not be considered a traditional holiday meal but is for the Central Coast Rescue Mission.

“We did turkey fajitas. It always sounds odd, but it is a great way to blend a Christmas tradition with the community we serve. Today, most of our crowd is Spanish-speaking,” said Jon Bronkowski, Central Coast Rescue Mission director.

The Rescue Mission’s volunteers served up about 400 pounds of turkey to nearly 800 people at the event. More than 20 turkeys were provided by the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

Employees from FedEx, Starbucks and members of local churches and civic organizations partnered with the Rescue Mission to deliver the special meal.

The Christmas spirit wasn’t just served on plates.

“We are about sharing hope. We want to provide a place of refuge. Whether it is here getting a meal or in our recovery program, we want people to know that there is a place where they can come and be loved on,” Bronkowski said.

The Rescue Mission -- which provides services to area men and women in need of housing, food and moral support, as well as drug and life recovery services throughout the year -- was pleasantly surprised by the majority of the people who attended their Christmas banquet.

“We served a lot of families. Today was a lot of moms with their families,” Bronkowski said.

Beyond a meal and fellowship, the Rescue Mission spread the feeling of giving in other ways.

Every person who attended was given the opportunity to receive new blankets, clothes for children and adults and other items they may need, which the Rescue Mission has been collecting throughout the year.

A wrapping center was also set up for guests who wanted to give what they received as a Christmas gift to someone else so they could experience the joy of giving.

Children who attended received the gift of a toy.

“We gave away about 400 small toys so far,” Bronkowski said about halfway through the event, which started at 11 a.m. and continued until 2 p.m.

For more information about the Central Coast Rescue Mission or to support its many year-round events, visit www.erescuemission.org.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

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