DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Preparations are underway at the Durham Rescue Mission for Thursday’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner. The plan is to provide hot meals to hundreds of people in need.

Nearly 500 volunteers are helping with cooking turkeys, bagging free groceries, serving, and delivering the meals to those in the community who are in need.

But this year, officials with the Durham Rescue Mission said donations were down tremendously as they almost didn’t have enough turkeys for this year’s annual dinner.

“The donations have been really low,” said Rob Tart, president and CEO of the Durham Rescue Mission. “In years in the past, we would have 700 come in or even 900 come in. This year, we weren’t even getting to 100 very quickly and we were starting to panic.”

Tart said they usually need about 500 turkeys to feed the community from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

He put out a plea to those who had donated in the past. Shortly after that, he heard from Grace Church in Chapel Hill.

“I was aware they only had seven turkeys at this point in time, this was early October, and I said ‘man, how many do you need?’” said John Mark Hamilton, assistant pastor for Grace Church.

Hamilton said he talked it over with the church and they decided to make one hefty donation.

“So, I met with our team and said, ‘let’s be generous, let’s go all in, let’s provide 300 turkeys’ because of the generosity of our church honestly,” Hamilton said.

When Tart found out about this donation, he couldn’t believe it.

“I tell you that was a weight off my shoulders, because we were sitting there panicking and this has never really been a problem before,” Tart said.

In addition to Grace Church’s donation, former NFL and UNC football player Willie Parker donated 70 turkeys to the Durham Rescue Mission. Officials said thanks to these donations, and assistance from other donors, they were able to make this year’s Thanksgiving dinner possible.

“That’s our hope is that people will come through that line tomorrow and experience not just a full belly but a full spirit of hope because they can have a Thanksgiving that maybe they weren’t going to have,” Hamilton said.

The Durham Rescue Mission’s Thanksgiving dinner is Thursday at noon at 1201 East Main St.

Looking ahead to Christmas, Tart said toy donations are down for their upcoming Christmas toy drive as well. He said they usually would have well over 1,000 toys by now, but they only have about 600 toys donated so far.

He said they are going to need a total of 6,000 to 7,000 toys for their annual toy drive.

If you would like to donate to the Durham Rescue Mission’s toy drive, go to their website at DurhamRescueMission.org or call 919-688-9641.