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Estimated 5,000 enjoy free meal, services at Sonoma County Fairgrounds

  • Chrysti Lawrence, middle and Jeanne Ganas serve a Thanksgiving meal at the Redwood Gospel Mission's Great Thanksgiving Banquet at the Sonoma County Fairground on Wednesday, November 27, 2013. (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Before he ate Thanksgiving dinner, David Mix sat down for a haircut.

"Trim it up," he told his stylist, Mary Anne Elwood.

The haircut was free, as was the dinner. Mix was one of the thousands who attended Redwood Gospel Mission's Great Thanksgiving Banquet on Wednesday at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

Great Thanksgiving Banquet

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The event, in its 19th year, offers a piping hot feast featuring turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie to all who come. Also provided were frozen turkeys, flu shots, coats, medical checkups, and, for 1,100 families, bags full of food.

Mix, who drives cement trucks by trade, struggled to find permanent work during the recession. He moved to Santa Rosa earlier this year to be with family, but he said shortly after he arrived someone stole a bag with most of his belongings, including his identification.

"I lost everything I had," he said. "Now I'm getting shaped up with new clothing, this haircut. I'm starting from nothing again."

"You can do that here," said Elwood as she lifted some of Mix's silvery hair with a comb and snipped it. The owner of a local hair salon, she's been cutting hair at the Thanksgiving Banquet for 15 years.

"If there's a need, you need to fill it," she said with a shrug. "It's great to give back."

Mix nodded. "Who knows, maybe I'll be contributing in a year or two."

Jeff Gilman, executive director of the Redwood Gospel Mission, said about 600 volunteers pitched in this year. Some had received services in years past and returned to help.


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