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Over 1,000 Christmas meals given to those in need

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Close to 200 volunteers filled the Utica Rescue Mission Tuesday to help with their annual Christmas Dinner and Worship Service. The whole event served about 1,200 meals to those in need.

The day wasn't just about getting a hot meal, for many it was also about enjoying some holiday festivities with others.

Dozens filled the Utica Rescue Mission's chapel to hear a special Christmas service put on by local Rabbi Stephen Galiley of the
Shalom Messianic Congregation. With Christmas carols and inspirational messages organizers helped those struggling still feel the spirit of Christmas.

"In addition to all of the food and the presents we're going to give, the real message is someone cares about you that God cares about you and so do we," said Utica Rescue Mission's Executive Director Rev. Bill Dodge.

As a faith based organization, the Utica Rescue Mission hosts a Christmas service and dinner every year. Their hope is to not only provide a hot meal, but to have residents feel part of the family on the holiday.

"The real different twist comes with different people that come and share their own perspective, perhaps their own story of how God saved them or their own story of how they brought themselves back from a difficult place," said Rev. Dodge.

Executive Director Bill Dodge says this year he's seen an increase in need at the shelter. On this Christmas, they were able to serve about 1,200 meals both in the shelter and brought out into the community thanks to the local community and volunteers.

"Most of what is here is donated and most of what we've done to make this pretty is because people have donated their time and their loving effort to make sure that the folks that we serve are really going to have a merry Christmas," said Rev. Dodge.

Many other local shelters helped struggling families Tuesday. Rome's Rescue Mission served over 500 meals, in addition to putting together food baskets and providing 2,000 families with Christmas toys.

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