Hunger resides in the child who sits next to yours at school, in the house down the block from yours and in many other places where you might not expect it. Few people know this better than Gladys Thompson, Executive Director of The Fayetteville City Rescue Mission. Her program, Operation Doughnation, works with local restaurants to provide food for those in need. After Panera Bread closes every night, all of the store’s leftover breads, bagels and fancy pastries are donated and loaded into a volunteer’s vehicle. Back at the Rescue Mission, Thompson and other volunteers bag the donations into about 160 plastic bags and then they leave a bread box full of the bagged items on the porch each night. “Each morning the box is always empty as people take what they need,” said Thompson. Other restaurants involved in the endeavor include the Pizza Huts on Ramsey Street and near 71st High School. Leftover pizzas are served for hot meals at the mission daily from noon to 1:30 p.m. Starbucks locations also participate by donating their leftover pastries each day to be used as desserts for the program and every Sunday leftover brunch fare is picked up from the Highland Country Club to aid in the Mission’s goal of providing hot, nutritious meals for the homeless and for those who need help feeding their families. The Fayetteville City Rescue Mission was established in 1974 and Thompson literally stepped into the fire the day she took over in September 2007. Her first day was the day the original building burned down. She is the first female director of the mission and has been awarded numerous humanitarian awards for her efforts. Thompson says her biggest reward is being able to serve and give of herself to help others. She is no stranger to pain and uses that experience to relate to others. Thompson’s son Carlos was killed in 2007 in Iraq at just 26 years old. After that devastating loss Thompson said she threw herself into her work. “I find peace within and I have this job to help me,” said Thomson. “Ironically, these people that I am here for were the ones here for me during my tough times. I want my life to be a living testament for others.” The Fayetteville City Rescue Mission is best known for the large numbers of people fed at Thanksgiving and Christmas. In November, the mission fed 450 residents in need and provided their annual Christmas dinner on December 18 serving a hot dinner of turkey and ham with all the trimmings under tents in the winter drizzle. Warm clothes, coats and gloves were laid out to be taken as needed. The mission also sponsors “Operation Dream Come True” by adopting 50 local families in need and providing toys and clothes for their children from contributions through local churches and other organizations. If your unit or organization would like to sponsor a service project, contact Gladys Thompson at 910.323.0446.