“This is amazing,” Salvation Army Service Center Director Donna Harris said Friday, as she watched a steady stream of people enter the facility to enjoy a Christmas Day lunch.
She was as overwhelmed by the response from volunteers as she was by the number of diners.
“There’s nothing I can say to them, and tell the volunteers how much I appreciate what they’re doing.”
Many of the volunteers had been working the signature Salvation Army Red Kettles at various shopping locations in Brownwood and Early. Others were regular volunteers at the service center’s Loaves and Fishes program, a United Way agency that provides weekday lunches to any who need them.
But young James Nolen and his mother Kim were first-timers on Friday. When he heard about the Christmas Day lunch, James wanted to go, even if the only job he could do was sweep floors.
Both of them were assigned the important task of handing out trays to people as they entered the building.
“This is the first time we’ve volunteered here, but we may be back,” Kim Nolen said.
Harris was still beaming over the community’s support of the holiday season bell-ringing campaign, which ended Thursday.
“We had a goal of $35,000, and we collected $600 short of $40,000,” Harris said. “The kettle volunteers were awesome.” In all, they contributed 60 hours of their time a day, six days a week in recent weeks, enduring spells of extremely cold weather that left a few of them ill.
“Our client services are back on schedule now,” Harris said. “We’re excited. Our volunteers are unbelievable. We have a lot of bell-ringers cooking today, too. They are all making a big difference.”
Harris said she took a group picture of all the volunteers who came to cook and serve the meal, and they stretched across the entire back wall of the center.
“I had to take three pictures to get them all,” she said.
Exact figures will have to be totaled later, but midway through the noon to 1 p.m. serving time Friday Harris estimated that the center had served 200 meals, including those enjoyed by the volunteers. The final total could approach 300, she said, watching a steady flow of people entering the door.
“If there’s anyone around who is hungry or is alone this Christmas, it’s their own fault,” she added.
“We served 265 the day before Thanksgiving, and that was with limited publicity,” Harris said. She thanked the media for making this first-time Christmas Day special dinner a success.
“You’ll not find a better Christmas Day meal anywhere,” Harris said of the menu. After diners finished off plates piled high with turkey and dressing, ham and vegetables, they received some citrus to take with as they left.
For the second time this week, Harris said a homeless person had showed up seeking assistance.
“He spent the night across the street from the bus station,” Harris said, on West Commerce. “He has family in Coleman, and we’re trying to arrange for him to get there today.”