By Pete Zamplas-The non-profit Hendersonville Rescue Mission gets extra notice on Thanksgiving Day for complimentary turkey and ham meals it serves, but its help to turn people’s lives around are year-round and especially useful in holidays when spirits dip.
The Mission and local VFW Hall are among places in Hendersonville where dozens of people in need can get a free meal on Thursday Nov. 28. Volunteers help make this a holiday treat, a respite from daily challenges.
“All people who are hungry can get a meal in the Hendersonville Rescue Mission, 365 days a year,” said Executive Director the Rev. Anthony McMinn. “We’re looking to serve in excess of 200 meals to the homeless on Thanksgiving. We thank the community for its support. We receive no federal or state funding.”
He said “people can help by donating financially,” or by dropping off frozen turkeys and hams at the shelter 9-3 weekdays. The mission has a large walk-in freezer, and four other freezers.” The volunteer force is already arranged in full, with 14 people serving meals, cutting cakes and doing other tasks.
The meals are among 10,000 to 13,000 meals the mission serves during the holidays, and 60,000 year-round, the Rev. McMinn said.
The meals are part of a broader outreach. Since 1981, the year-round Mission at 639 Maple St. off Seventh Avenue by the Historic Train Depot has helped down-and-out people become more spiritual, structured, self-reliant and productive. The non-profit is strictly privately-funded, by various churches and donors and buoyed by volunteers.
“It’s a warm feeling knowing you’re making a difference in someone’s life,” especially when they do not have loved ones around, McMinn said, “They’re getting a hot meal, and a warm and clean bed. We’re moving lives forward.” Medical treatment is among basic needs provided to the homeless.
Sense of despair is typically heavier than usual during prolonged recession and holidays with a sense of being left out while families are happy, he said. “Drug addictions can be very depressing, especially now. They’ve destroyed many bridges, and family relationships. When other people celebrate holidays with families, they can feel depressed and even suicidal. We try to let them know we care.”
He added, “the economy and high unemployment make it worse” with a sense of despair, of never getting a steady job paying enough. Also, more mentally ill people coming into the shelter” this decade, after the state cut funding for mental health programs.
Above all, the Rev. McMinn said, “it’s hurt my heart over the years to see the kids suffer” when in dysfunctional, broken and homeless families. Twenty of the 77 shelter beds are for women and their children. There is also a family unit for emergency stay, and off-site “transitional” quarters.
Most beds stay full year-round, McMinn said. Each person stays an average of 13.5 days and can stay up to eight months, if by keeping up in programs.
“We give opportunity to change” through a “tough love” mix of Bible study, daily chapel services, chores and strict rules, he said. The shelter holds anger and money management classes. Once progressing into the Discipleship Program they demonstrate “accountability” doing their best to land a job, bank account, and save money, McMinn said.
The Turning Point substance abuse recovery program is pivotal. The shelter started it 12 years ago. “It gets them to deal with their issues from childhood abuse, to low self-esteem and adhering to peer pressure,” McMinn said. “They try drugs one time. The next thing they know, they’re hooked. It all progresses from marijuana. It’s the gateway drug,” and has been for generations, he said.
“Our guests are dealing with addictions such as to ‘crack’ or ‘meth,’” he said. “Addiction to prescription pain pills is on the rise,” to dull sense of discomfort or to try to pep energy and spirits. “These pills are rampant in our school system,” said McMinn, a sports coach who keeps contact with many local teens. “When I first came to the rescue mission, the average age of guests was 44. Now it’s 27. The biggest reason is drug abuse, at a younger age.”
Role Model, Inspirer
McMinn is active in the community in many ways. He is in his second season as varsity football running backs coach for Hendersonville High School. HHS made the playoffs yet again, falling at Reidsville last Friday to finish lower than usual at 5-7. Still, that was best of the four local high schools.
Previously, McMinn coached youth football for five years in the district of West Henderson, his alma mater. He has also coached basketball at Faith Christian.
McMinn played football from Junior high through college and semi-pro ball. He and wife Kimbela’s daughter Morgan McMinn played basketball for Clemson, after a stellar North Henderson career. As a 5-foot-11 prep senior and inside force, she led all females in the state in scoring.
Morgan’s younger brother, 6-3 Anthony “A.J.” McMinn II, starred as a HHS linebacker and runner. He is a redshirt freshman fullback in Division 1, for North Carolina A&T. The Aggies dropped a close 39-24 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference contest in the Georgia Dome Oct. 5, to S.C. State and kicker Will Roper of HHS.
Kimbela McMinn is an East Henderson alumnus. Thus, the four McMinns have graduated from each of the four high schools in Henderson County.
As a proud father, McMinn relays how recent Clemson Coach Cristy McKinney of Clemson was impressed with Morgan’s manners and remarked “she’s a pleasure to coach” and A& T Coach Rod Broadway praised A.J. for character and hard work.
As a father figure-big brother, Coach McMinn impacts local teens spiritually and through sports-life values such as teamwork, dedication, discipline, self-confidence and effort. He realizes a star athlete is a prized recruiting target of gang-like wayward youths. He has helped troubled athletes land college scholarships. He shares with youths at risk stories anonymously about other youth going into various directions in facing peer pressure, as well as what he sees in adult Mission guests. This includes years of drug abuse decaying body, mind and spirit.
“I share my testimony and what we deal with in the Rescue Mission,” the Rev. McMinn said. As a coach and mentor, “I help them on their journey, into manhood. I challenge them to make good decisions, to overcome mistakes and to be the best they can be. It starts with a strong relationship with God. Two, you must apply yourself in high school. It’s also about learning good manners and character, about doing what’s right.”
To donate money or food for Thanksgiving, call Hendersonville Rescue Mission at 697-1354 and ask for operations.