MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Rescue Mission is continuing their Thanksgiving tradition by feeding the homeless at their annual Great Thanksgiving Banquet.

Thanksgiving is a time to be surrounded by family and friends but that’s not always possible for some people. That’s where the Miami Rescue Mission comes in. It makes sure that everyone has somewhere to go to give thanks and enjoy a good meal.

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Miami Rescue Mission prepares Thanksgiving feast. (CBS4)

“The best feeling in the world, the best feeling in the world,” said Juan Fernandez, a former client of Miami Recue who now works there as a chef.

Fernandez, 68, who has battled addiction most of his adult life, began going to the Miami Rescue Mission four years ago after a group of men from his church noticed he was having a difficult time staying on track.

“You know as a drug addict everybody tells you you’ll amount to nothing,” said Fernandez.

The 68-year-old began prepping at 2:30 a.m. for Thursday’s annual Cadillac Breakfast and Thanksgiving banquet in Miami, which feeds up to 600 people. He told CBS4 News he credits the Miami Rescue Mission for giving him a new lease on life.

“I came in here thinking because I came here as a drug addict, and what I do, I was no good. I was not a good person, I was no good,” said Fernandez. “As soon as I came in here, they said, you are a good person, the lord does love you.”

Fernandez is one of hundreds who assisted the Miami Rescue Mission and its Broward Outreach Centers in Hollywood and Pompano Beach feed thousands of people this Thanksgiving.

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The Miami Rescue Mission has become a lifeline for Fernandez because he remembers far too well once being on the other side of the line, receiving food.

Now, he’s grateful and paying it forward.

“This ain’t no part-time work, this is full-time. You know recovery’s not an easy thing but I’m one to tell you it could be done,” he said.

His story is like that of so many others volunteering, who complete the rescue mission program and then come back to help others who are in the place they once were.

The organization also provides clothes and hygiene products to families in need as well as services such as haircuts, showers, medical evaluations and checkups.

“This is a big day for the people, and we want to make sure that Thanksgiving is not forgotten for those that are the last, the least, and the loss of our community,” said Antonio Villasuso, the director of Miami Centers for the Miami Rescue Mission.

Thursday free haircuts were also provided to anyone who needed one. Local Miami barber with Miami Gives Back was on hand to provide services to the men who attended the event.

Rev. Ron Brummitt, president of Miami Rescue Mission | Broward Outreach Centers, said of the festivities, “I am so excited that we are able to provide a great meal for the homeless and needy families of South Florida on our campuses. Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for what you have in this world and realize how you can make the world for someone else a little bit better.”

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Click here for more information about the Caring Place at Miami Rescue Mission.

Deborah Souverain