Participants at the Mission’s three locations in Miami, Hollywood and Pompano Beach were treated to a complete meal, birthday cake and cupcakes, live entertainment and gifts.
Performers included the Regeneration Singers, which comprises formerly homeless residents of the Miami Rescue Mission, and the Thrive Youth Choir of the First United Methodist Church of Albany, Ga.
“Something like this ‘Gigantic Birthday Party’ sounds so simple until you are here, until you know what it means and how much everyone here cares for you,” said a man identified only as Louis who has been homeless for two years. “I never thought I would be brought to tears by just blowing out candles.”
Marilyn Brummitt, director of development for Miami Rescue Mission/Broward Outreach Centers, said homeless people living on the streets usually never have a chance to celebrate their birthdays.
“No matter when their birthday is, they were able to celebrate their special day with us at our Gigantic Birthday Bash Party,” Brummitt said. “This is just another way to show them that they are not forgotten and they can get help off the streets.”
The big birthday bash came two months after more than 120 formerly homeless men and women graduated from the Miami Rescue Mission/Broward Outreach Centers in a cap-and-gown ceremony witnessed by more than 300 attendees.
The graduation marked the first step in what the Mission said “has become a lifetime of redemption for many individuals.”
This was the second combined graduation for the Miami, Hollywood and Pompano locations and the largest to date for the Mission, more than double the number at the previous ceremony held in November of 2010.
Graduates gave testimonies of their personal struggles that ranged from drugs and alcohol abuse to poverty and despair. One graduate who is starting a journey toward another kind of graduation is Earnest Surry, who is enrolled in Miami-Dade College studying to become a paralegal.
“I never thought that at age 60, I would be enrolled in college… It is a dream come true to begin,” Scurry said. “The Miami Rescue Mission has done so much for me, I cannot thank them enough and my future has never been brighter than right now.”
MaryAnn Diamond, director of the Broward Outreach Centers, described the graduation as “a celebration of their hard work, conviction not to waver and perseverance.”
“I can’t put this graduation into words. It means so much to me,” said one graduate, Richard Medina.
“The feeling here today is remarkable, I am truly blessed to stand where I am now, this is a wonderful step in making my life better.”