Every year, the Rescue Mission's Chris Beane throws a Thanksgiving to remember. Photo by Adam Finkle.

This is the season when Utah families gather for thanksgivings and celebrations—but still manage to take for granted just how lucky they are to have shelter, a family and even a meal. 

Chris Beane, food service manager at the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake, knows how to put together a feast for 1,200 homeless people, many who are addicts, that brings meaning and joy to the holidays.

Beyond being a former chef, Beane knows what it’s like to struggle with sobriety. As part of his recovery, he knew he had to give back to the people around him. He saw the Rescue Mission as a place where he could serve others, as a substance-abuse counselor and running a kitchen that gives away 125,000 meals per year. Nothing, in his mind, is more symbolic of serving others than feeding them.

Beane calls his transformation from an alcoholic chef ruling a restaurant through anger and intimidation to a case manager who uses his kitchen to teach peace and respect to addicts as “God’s irony.”

“Chefs are prideful. As a chef it was about me. That’s been one of the changes in my heart,” Beane says. “I went from a kitchen using high-end ingredients to a kitchen run on donated food.”

Getting beyond selfishness, he says, is crucial to recovery. “Addicts aren’t real familiar with the concept of service to others. I try to help them apply their kitchen work to their recovery.” 

The approach applies equally to volunteers from the community (including the governor) who show up every year at Thanksgiving. 

“Around the holidays, people want to give back. A lot of families come to expose their kids to what goes on on Fourth West and what it means to serve others,” he says. “Most people are humbled by the experience and find joy in it.”

Recipe for a joyful Thanksgiving

100 donated turkeys

400 pounds of potatoes

400 cans of yams and cranberry sauce

120 boxes of stuffing

35 gallons of gravy

200 pies

50 community volunteers

1 side of grace

If you want to be part of the Nov. 26 banquet: 801-355-1302, 463 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City, rescuesaltlake.org

Back>>>Read more stories from our December 2013 issue.