HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A Christmas tradition in Harrisburg brings hundreds of people in need to the Bethesda Mission for a warm meal.
Though it's just a simple meal, those less fortunate say they are receiving something much more complex: a second chance.
For many people, Christmas is a chance to celebrate and spend time with loved ones. For others, the day can be a reminder of what they lost.
“For people who don’t have families, or have destroyed their family relationships, it can be a very depressing time of year," said Ken Ross, a director for the Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg.
"This is my last hope. This is all I have right now, if it wasn’t for this place, I don’t know where I’d be," said Ronald Whitcomb, a man trying to get back on his feet.
Whitcomb said he was down and out until he decided to walk up the Bethesda Mission steps just a few weeks back.
“I was surviving, just living on the street, living under bridges, out in the woods, whatever I could do. I used to go to churches to get food and that… go to places where I could get a shower," said Whitcomb.
On Christmas, volunteers spend time at the mission serving dinner to people, like Whitcomb, who may be struggling.
“I brought my two kids to come just so they can participate as well, just to let them know they can be a blessing to others; it’s not just about them," said Monika Ross, a volunteer.
The volunteers' help doesn't go unappreciated.
"They come out and share their time. They don’t have to be out here, you know, it’s like family all here," said Whitcomb.
The meal ensures no one goes without a dinner or finds themselves alone on the holiday.
“If you are friendless in this world, it’s a very, very difficult world, and many of these people face that. So we want to become their friends and offer them a new life," said Ross.
“I’m trying to get myself back together, find a good job, get a place of my own, and get back to my kids," explained Whitcomb.
“I’ve been going on twenty years clean and sober. Thank God for this mission," said Will Watson, a graduate of the Mission.
The support so many have received is why they say they come back time and time again.
“This mission saved my life twenty years ago, and I’m still coming back, I’m still welcomed back. Thank God. Thank God for this program," added Watson.