Today, Jeff Tooles will cook roughly 70 “nice, pretty, golden brown” turkeys for city dwellers who, as he says, “don’t have anywhere to go.”
The senior food services manager of Central Union Mission --- an emergency shelter that offers a Spiritual Transformation Program (STP) for Washington, D.C.’s homeless men --- will celebrate his twentieth Thanksgiving preparing and serving dinner at the shelter.
“I have been here every Thanksgiving for 20 years,” Tooles proudly told The Daily Signal in an interview. “Men, women, families, anybody who walks through that door can eat. We turn nobody down.”
The kitchen will also turn out enough stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables and green beans to feed over 400 men, women and children.
Tooles understands the importance of a hot meal and conversation better than anyone. Before he began working at Central Union Mission, he was homeless. He went through Central Union Mission’s STP program over 20 years ago before turning his life around.
“This is a tough time for a lot of people that don’t have families,” Tooles said. “It’s a lonely time. So the volunteers that do come here, it’s a great blessing for them to come and just sit down with somebody they don’t even know and say, ‘How are you doing? Are you having a great day?’ and just wish them a happy Thanksgiving.”
About 160 volunteers cook, clean, serve dinner and act as “table hosts,” sitting down alongside guests to share lunch or dinner and talk with one another.
Over the past twenty years, Tooles estimates he’s cooked 1,500 turkeys for those in need.
Featured Image: Jeff Tooles in the kitchen at Washington, D.C.'s Central Union Mission. (Photo: Madaline Donnelly/The Daily Signal)