PORTLAND, Ore. -- It is getting down to the wire at the Union Gospel Mission in Portland.

Staff there are working fast to make sure all the Thanksgiving fixings are ready to go on Thursday.

They're expecting about 800 of Portland’s homeless to stop by for a hot meal.

One staff member we ran into is serious about sharing one of his mother's recipes.

“Today we're going to be making Mama Hayes' candied yams,” said Cedric Hayes, the kitchen coordinator at the Union Gospel Mission.

From brown sugar, to cinnamon, to nutmeg, Hayes gave us a sneak peek at the secret ingredients that make up his mother's special yam recipe. It's the second year he's making it because the canned yams just weren't cutting it.

“It just mashes up, it does not cook. We like to have it kind of firm, you know, fork tender,” he said.

Hayes said his mother is from South Carolina and the recipe has been passed down in his family. Now he's sharing it with everyone.

“Hope she doesn't mind,” joked Hayes.

Mama Hayes’ tasty recipe will help serve the homeless, who will be showing up at the Union Gospel Mission for a hot, home-cooked meal on Thanksgiving.

While Hayes was in a cheery mood on Wednesday, he knows exactly what it's like to live on the streets. About five and half years ago he was homeless himself, and struggling with a drug addiction.

“I went from college-educated, being a teacher for almost 15 years in the Tacoma School District, to being homeless,” Hayes said.

But now he's in a very different place, and like last year, he hopes Mama Hayes’ candied yams puts a smile on people's faces.

“Got rave reviews. The homeless loved it and that made me feel really good to be a part of their Thanksgiving,” said Hayes.

It’s a Thanksgiving, that for Hayes, now carries a lot of meaning.

“Thanksgiving means to me, having my family back all the way,” he said.

The Union Gospel Mission is still on the hunt for donations. Stacy Kean, the communication director, said they still need coffee, sleeping bags, warm blankets, and winter jackets.

The meal will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday at the Union Gospel Mission located near the corner of Burnside Street and Northwest 3rd Avenue.