As a young kid growing up in Washington, D.C., Carlton Hill looked forward to visiting his aunt on Thanksgiving.
Through his aunt's color TV, a young Hill watched parades, cartoons and professional football in all their vibrancy. It was a special treat.
Nowadays, Hill spends his Thanksgivings serving others at the Frederick Rescue Mission, a nonprofit that offers recovery programs to those struggling with homelessness, hunger and chemical addiction, and other need-based help.
Hill, director of the rescue mission's Changed Life Recovery Program and co-director of the Bread of Life kitchen, rose early Thursday to help cook for those in need. When the doors opened at noon, roughly one dozen people waited outside, and more filtered in over the hour.
Volunteers scooped mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, stuffing, corn pudding, loads of veggies, ham and more onto trays. An array of pies cut into slices filled one table, and soup was on deck. Volunteers carrying silver trays of mouth-watering food bustled around Hill as he paused to explain the operations.
The air smelled like gravy.
The kitchen crew prepared about 40 turkeys in expectation of 300 to 350 people, Hill said. Whatever remained at the end of the day would become leftovers or made into soups. Serving Thanksgiving meals is a long-time tradition at the rescue mission, which also offers two meals a day, seven days a week outside of holidays.
"It means a lot to me because I was once in that same position," Hill said.
In 2002, Hill was at a turning point, he said, and had tried several rehabilitation programs. He came to the Frederick Rescue Mission, graduated from the recovery program he now leads and went on to get his college degree.
"Something on the inside clicked," Hill said, when he came to the Frederick Rescue Mission and found God.
Hill, wearing a shirt that read, "Endless second chances," offered a blessing over the food before the first crop of guests tucked into their meals.
One shelter resident, who didn't wish to give his full name, called out to familiar faces and joked around with volunteers.
"I love this place here," he said.
Arnold Farlow, executive director of the Frederick Rescue Mission, said they went through 2.8 million pounds of food last year. This year, they're on track to give out 2.5 million. He says when people come to their door, the rescue mission doesn't ask them to prove their poverty level. They just help.
"Our whole thing is, change the life now and get somebody on the journey to change their life forever," Farlow said.
For some people, the change might start with one hot meal and a kind face, which is what volunteer Tamiko Brownfield hoped to convey. She wasn't able to visit family this holiday so she decided to offer her time to others.
"There's so many people in need," Brownfield said. "[I'm] just smiling, saying 'Happy Thanksgiving' ... letting them know people care about them."
Volunteer Sarah McNeil and her fiancé Joseph Joannides came from Virginia to spend time with their family in Frederick and volunteer with McNeil's mother Lisa Thambi. McNeil used to live in Frederick and served as a camp counselor for the rescue mission in the past.
"I just think that everybody deserves to be cared for," McNeil said. "Even if I don't know you, I still care about you."