The Hiway 80 Rescue Mission’s lunch to feed Tyler’s homeless was set to begin at noon Friday, but as a steady rain began falling and the sidewalk under the awning outside began to fill up, the crowd was let inside West Erwin Church of Christ’s Benevolence Center.

They waited patiently as volunteers put the finishing touches on the meal, which had been prepared at the nonprofit’s home base in Longview. More than 200 people were fed Friday in Tyler and Hiway 80 expected to feed about 300 more people at its Longview location. Volunteers at both locations also handed out care packages to those in need.

“People just need a place to be able to call home and this is what we can offer,” said Hiway 80 board member David Detten, who helped lead a team of volunteers of all ages, some as young as 5. “We want to give them a place to come in, get out of the weather, have a good hot meal and relax.”

Hiway 80 is a faith-based nonprofit dedicated to helping the homeless and disadvantaged in Tyler and Longview. They also offer faith-based addiction recovery programs.

Edward Nolan, who volunteered serving meals Friday, said Hiway 80’s services have helped him reclaim his life.

“They’ve helped me a lot because I was headed down a bad path of self-destruction,” he said. “It feels real, real good to help out with the homeless community.”

Not only has Nolan put himself back on a healthy and productive path, but he is also in a position to help others.

“I’m grateful to just be serving,” he said. “It feels good to serve and not ask for anything in return.”

TWITTER: @TMT_Cory

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Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on The Murder Tapes, Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.