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Utah Gov. Spencer Cox joins Rescue Mission of Salt Lake to serve Thanksgiving dinner

Based on the crowd inside and lined up outside of the mission, hundreds of people participated in Wednesday’s banquet, an annual event for more than 20 years

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Gov. Spencer Cox serves Thanksgiving meals at the Rescue Mission in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023.

Gov. Spencer Cox serves Thanksgiving meals at the Rescue Mission in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Following a tradition that he has upheld for over 10 years, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and his family took time Wednesday to serve Thanksgiving meals to the city's homeless population.

"We know that there are some people that aren't feeling great this holiday season who don't have what we have. They don't have a warm home to go to and a warm Thanksgiving meal, maybe they don't have family in the area," Cox said.

"We look forward to this every year because it's a chance to get off Capitol Hill and to stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends and get to know new people and listen to their concerns and their challenges and hopefully find solutions."

The annual event — held at the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake — includes a full, sit-down Thanksgiving meal with all the usual fixings, the opportunity for members of the homeless population to get set up with essential winter clothes and shoes, receive free haircuts, medical checkups, as well as COVID-19 and influenza vaccinations.

People were also able to take to-go meals for friends, family and themselves.

Chris Croswhite, executive director at the Rescue Mission, said the mission has hosted the same Thanksgiving banquet for over 20 years.

"Our homeless friends have often been beaten up by life. Frequently, what they need is a little bit of respect, a little bit of hope (and) a dream," Croswhite said. "What our goal is is to help those individuals strive for that highest capacity in life and it will not happen if they don't have dignity, respect and hope."

People wait for a Thanksgiving meal at the Rescue Mission in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. Following a tradition that he has upheld for over 10 years, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and his family took some time Wednesday to serve Thanksgiving meals to Salt Lake City's homeless population.

People wait for a Thanksgiving meal at the Rescue Mission in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. Following a tradition that he has upheld for over 10 years, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and his family took some time Wednesday to serve Thanksgiving meals to Salt Lake City’s homeless population.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Based on the crowd inside and lined up outside of the mission, hundreds of people participated in Wednesday's banquet.

Both Croswhite and Cox spoke to the importance of volunteers and community support in helping to put on and sponsor the banquet. Croswhite said the mission typically has six to 20 volunteers a day, with that number growing to around 100 on the day of the banquet.

"It is absolutely incredible how the greater Salt Lake area has stepped up to volunteer — although we have a very good relationship with the state and the city and the county, we don't receive any of those funds," Croswhite said. "We are completely dependent upon the local community saying that they believe in the model of the Rescue Mission and they financially sponsor our banquets and they financially sponsor men and women on our recovery program and seeking shelter."

Lt. Gov. Deidre M. Henderson serves Thanksgiving meals at the Rescue Mission in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

Lt. Gov. Deidre M. Henderson serves Thanksgiving meals at the Rescue Mission in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

In operation since 1972, the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake takes care of Utah's most vulnerable populations in two ways: emergency services and addiction recovery.

Emergency services include day and night shelters for people who are homeless, three hot meals a day, showers, clothing, laundry facilities, transitional housing and employment counseling.

"Our goal, the goal of Salt Lake City, the goal of Salt Lake County — all of us working together — is to make sure that no one spends a night on the streets in the cold, ever," Cox said. "And that there is something better. No matter where we find ourselves, where our friends find themselves, there is something to move forward, to move upward, to help lift them. We have a responsibility to do that."