Chattanooga Group Hosts Christmas Meal


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — A Chattanooga group gives back to the homeless year round, but it wants to make their Christmas extra special.

That’s why the Union Gospel Mission held its annual community Christmas dinner Friday afternoon.

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“I sleep on the street, eat out of garbage cans. I stay in the homeless shelter right now,” said Gerald, who is homeless.

The Union Gospel Mission is helping people like Gerald who may not have a place to go.

That’s why the group holds community dinners like this three or four times a year, during major holidays.

“Just to be a blessing to folks,” said Jon Rector, Union Gospel Mission. “Just to try to help minister to them. Our capacity is limited as to how many we can house, so this is one way we get to reach out and minister to a bunch more folks.”

“I like it,” said Douglas McDaniel, who received a free meal. “I mean, they should do more of it, but times are getting hard, and I understand that.”

For Christmas, volunteers are serving turkey, ham, and all the fixings.

They’re also giving away blankets and winter clothing. Most everything is donated.

“We love to gather whatever we can,” Rector said.

“We need more blankets,” Gerald said. “We need gloves and coats. I’ve got this hat right here. It’s all I’ve got.”

But some say this meal has made their Christmas even better this year.

“God is good,” Gerald said. “That’s all I’m going to say. God is good.”

Volunteers say they’re happy to help.

“This time of year, you know, depression is usually at its highest and people are struggling with their own lives, and so this is just a small way for us to be able to give back,” Rector said.

If you would like to donate to the Union Gospel Mission, go here:


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You can watch Emily Cassulo weeknights on News 12 Now starting at 5:30. Emily also does stories on different tech products and issues for Tech Byte, which airs Mondays on News 12 Now. She joined the WDEF news team in September 2016 from News 12’s sister station in Columbus, Mississippi, where she worked as an anchor, producer and reporter. Emily is no stranger to the Volunteer State. Before moving to Mississippi, she worked at WBBJ-TV, covering crime and severe weather throughout West Tennessee. She loves living in Chattanooga, and exploring what the Scenic City has to offer. Emily is a Florida native, graduating from the University of Central Florida with a degree in broadcast journalism and minor in political science. While in college, Emily worked part-time as a reporter/web producer at News/Talk 96.5 WDBO. She broke her first news story there, which made national headlines, and covered the 2010 Central Florida congressional elections and the high-profile Casey Anthony trial. When she’s not busy reporting, Emily enjoys shopping, reading, playing the piano, and spending time with family and friends. Feel free to e-mail her at if you have any story ideas or just want to say ‘Hi.’