RICHMOND -- The Bay Area Rescue Mission is used to coming through for people in tough spots.

This year, it needed its own helping hand.

As of Nov. 11, the mission had just 33 turkeys, not nearly enough for its annual Thanksgiving feasts. The 12-year old tradition was in peril.

"It was pretty critical," said Executive Director John Anderson.

Then came the mini-miracle. The donations surged.

Eight days later, the mission has 1,500 turkeys and more than enough of the other fixings, and is now set to dish up 24,000 meals this week.

"It was overwhelming," Anderson said. "We tried to get the word out through media sources, donors and friends, and word got around and people reacted in typical Bay Area, compassionate fashion."

The major donors included AAA and Bay Alarm, which dropped off 320 turkeys Monday morning. Dozens of individuals, churches and businesses also donated, bringing the total haul of food to an amount representing a 15 percent increase over last year, Anderson said.

The turkeys are 25 to 35 pounds each.

"We are concerned about the homeless and impoverished that the Bay Area Rescue Mission serves every year," Dolores Nielsen, a Bay Alarm branch manager, said in a news release.

Dozens of volunteers and culinary students are also involved in preparations.

The food is enough for turkey dinners at 8 p.m. every night through Thanksgiving, under the "big tent" at the mission's 200 Macdonald Ave. location. The biggest feast is set for 11:30 a.m. Thanksgiving Day.

The Bay Area Rescue Mission was founded in 1965 and has grown into the largest privately funded nonprofit helping the needy in the Bay Area, with 325 beds. Anderson said that with the strain on other private and public resources and the tough economy, the mission has never seen a greater demand for services.

"It's tough out there, and sometimes we all need a helping hand."

Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or rrogers@bayareanewsgroup.com and follow Twitter.com/roberthrogers.

IF you go

Thanksgiving meals for needy men, women and children
Bay Area Rescue Mission at 200 Macdonald Ave.
8 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday/11:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day