SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City Mission hosted their 25th annual “Easter Meal in the Park” on Sunday with the help of local organizations. The event was held in Pioneer Park and had enough food to feed thousands of people.
Joe Vazquez, co-director of Salt Lake City Mission, said people should never be hungry on the streets, but Salt Lake City Mission also hopes to do more than just meet the physical need.
“Hopefully at least some of them will find that they are at a place where they are ready to make change in their life,” Vazquez said emphasizing his hopes that people will be inspired to make the changes when they are ready.
Vazquez has spent the last twenty years doing rescue missions. He said one thing he has observed and learned through his years of service is, “changed lives often start with a hot meal.”
Salt Lake City Mission is privately funded and known for helping the homeless, helping individuals struggling with addictions, running shelters and starting food banks.
The Mission, while a small organization with only eleven staff members, helped over 56,000 people last year.
According to Vazquez, they are able to do this with the help of volunteers and the sheer magnitude of public help.
“All year long we do activities and events to help the poor and homeless, and today we are doing our Easter celebration here in Pioneer Park,” Vazquez said.
Easter Sunday’s activities included free haircuts, a clothing drive, food for 3,500 people, hygiene packs and care packages.
“Everybody can do something — everyone can. Not everyone can provide finance, but everybody can provide volunteer time,” Vazquez said, urging any interested parties to check out Salt Lake City Mission’s website.
Local organization Care Cuts was also at the Easter Meal providing professional makeup, cutting hair, washing hair, painting nails and other free cosmetic services.
Marco Diaz, founder of Care Cuts, said a lot of people ask him what a haircut actually does for individuals who are already going through so much.
“But we always say the haircut is our excuse. It’s our excuse to love and serve them and make them feel special,” Diaz said.
In that 10 or 15 minutes of care, Diaz said a real connection is made. It’s not just about making patrons look better — although that is part of it — it’s about making them feel good.
“A lot of them say, ‘I feel human again,’” Diaz said, “I think we underestimate the power of touch and making someone feel special. When you make them feel special, that cut might not change their lives, but after this we’ve had people say, ‘I’m going to get a job, or I decided to go back to my family or after this I decided to make different decisions and maybe go off drugs.”
Operation Underground Railroad is another organization that partnered with Salt Lake City Mission for the Easter Sunday event.
Operation Underground Railroad is an organization working towards the “permanent eradication of child sex trafficking,” with the overarching goal of rescuing individuals from their captors.
Jessica Mass, director of Operation Underground Railroad’s After Care, described the day as special.
“One thing I always love about serving our friends who are homeless is they are always so grateful, and I feel like I get blessed so much just from them,” Mass said. “I just think they are such good people.”