BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The Mission at Kern County normally serves about 15,000 meals in the month of December. But officials say food insecurity is up 10 to 20 percent, which is why they are cooking up a storm. 23ABC's Kristin Vartan gives an inside look at the preparations.
This holiday season has been difficult for most. Our community members have lost family. Lost their jobs. And some, even their homes.
The Mission at Kern County staffer Jacob Hutton has been there before. Three years ago he was homeless, was battling addiction, and lost his twin brother. So he turned to The Mission. With him, they shared a meal, and he says, so much more.
"When you lose a family member, it's very difficult. But when you're homeless, and you lose a family member, you have no one to turn to," explained Hutton. "Coming in that winter, it was the first time in a while I felt like I was human again. The love shared here is phenomenal."
Hutton goes on to say that the counseling and discipleship in faith helped him get through that year of loss and experiencing homelessness.
Now he's a men's discipleship program assistant, CompTIA certification teacher, and case manager at The Mission. Plus, he'll be receiving his B.A. in psychology. That's why he encourages anyone in need of a home or a meal to attend The Mission's annual meal this Christmas Eve.
"Over here, you're family, and everyone needs family on the holidays. We're willing to pray with them, we're willing to talk with them, and just share the love as much as we possibly can."
The Mission at Kern County's Executive Director Carlos Baldavinos said the meal will have the same outdoor format as Thanksgiving with social distanced tables, to-go containers, sanitization, the works. At the end of the day, to not have the meal at all during the stay-at-home order, would be unacceptable.
"All protocols are being thought through. And people still have to be fed. You cannot not feed people," said Baldavinos. "Everyone is eating during this pandemic and to say that the homeless are not going to get that, would be insulting and dehumanizing."
And while this may be an untraditional edition of the Christmas Eve meal there's one festivity that will remain: the Christmas music, and the presents. Each attendee will receive a gift on their way out.
Meals will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, first come first serve.