Haven of Mercy serving thousands on Thanksgiving after troubling year-and-a-half


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Local homeless shelter and ministry, Haven of Mercy, continued its Thanksgiving tradition this year after many doubts that they wouldn’t be able to.

Over the past year and a half, pastor and CEO of Haven of Mercy Ministries Grant Rockley told News Channel 11, they’ve seen many miracles, but also faced many obstacles.

“Having been here for nearly 50 years, we’re a stable place for the homeless, the helpless. We feed a lot of people here – 300 a day. We housed 75 men and 25 women, and we’ve been limping along for the last year and a half,” Rockley said.

“Every time the city tries one thing. we come back with another so, it’s made a back and forth but we finally come to an agreement that we operate. After a lot of expense, a lot of money is going out to meet their standards. But that’s all well and good.”

He said the ministry would be serving between 2,000 and 3,000 people this Thanksgiving across the Tri-Cities.

“We send about 150-200 meals to the jail down in Unicoi and several of the apartment complexes around here we deliver food to, we’re delivering food all over town to shut-ins, in fact, we got a couple that are stuck out on the freeway, they asked if we bring them meals,” Rockley said.

One of the hurdles Rockley said the shelter had to overcome was how they were going to prepare the meals when the city shut down their cooking facilities months ago.

“We’ve had an incredible amount of support from Central Baptist down the street here they cooked everything this year for us thinking we weren’t able to and the city approved our cooking facility on Monday,” he said.

Volunteers have been stoking the fires since Saturday to smoke nearly 90 turkeys, but not just turkeys.

“Everything and its brother – ham, turkey, we’ve got even a little venison, I think, hidden around somewhere,” Rockley said.

The shelter averages around 50 volunteers each year on Turkey Day. One of whom is Dale Strother.

“I probably have come here for about a dozen years. All total – I don’t come every year there’ll be a year where I’ll miss or a year where I have other commitments. But I like to come down and volunteer on Thanksgiving Day,” he said.

Strother, a veteran, said he’s thankful for his family after many struggles over the course of the pandemic.

“They did it last year, but because of some illness that was going on, I didn’t feel comfortable being exposed. And so I didn’t come down last year and I really looked forward to coming down this year. Just because we could,” he said.

He said the vibrant atmosphere in the kitchen and serving hall is what draws him to serve every year.

“They just do a great job here and anybody who comes down and watches what happens in you know, the dignity and the fun. We have fun down here doing this. It really is a great thing,” he said.

But Thanksgiving at Haven of Mercy almost didn’t happen this year.

“I need some help with the expense we’ve had to put out to answer the conditions the city’s put us under,” Rockley said. “We managed to get through it but it’s been very expensive and donations would be most welcome.”

He said that with the help of the community, they will be hosting a Christmas event this year on Dec. 25.

He asked that food donations be made by Dec. 15 to the Haven of Mercy Shelter at 123 W. Millard Street in Johnson City, and toy donations are made by Dec. 1.

For more information on how to help out, contact 423-929-0616.

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