Two groups, but the same Christmas day mission - ensure that no one in Brown County would be home alone for the holiday.
The Salvation Army Center of Hope in Brownwood and the Lake Brownwood Lions Club both hosted a Christmas dinner with all of the trimmings Thursday to accommodate any who either had nowhere to go, or could not afford to provide themselves or their respective families.
Volunteers were abundant at both events to handle those who attended.
“We have had so many volunteers that we had to ask them to work shifts,” said Donna Harris, director of the Center of Hope. “We had no worries about having enough help today because of all of the wonderful people that have been here.”
Nine miles away at the Lake Brownwood Lion’s Club, president Don Draper offered a similar assessment.
“There is just no way we could pull this off if we didn’t have so many people willing to come out, on Christmas nonetheless, and help take care of everyone that shows up.”
Willena Benson was one of the volunteers at the LBLC “Home Alone” dinner.
“Doing things like this is important because it gives people a chance to fellowship and enjoy a hot, home-cooked meal. If those that come don’t have a family to spend the holiday with, they have a family here.”
Sherrie Sikes, who is in town visiting, offered her time for the Salvation Army.
“I am from Mississippi and I always volunteer at home,” she said. “Since I am here, I decided to do it here. We are supposed to serve others.”
A dozen hams, 14 turkeys, countless pounds of side dishes and nearly 600 slices of pie were served between the two Christmas dinners.
“This food is great,” said Dwayne Elam, who has been frequenting the center. “I remember several years ago, we would get soup on Christmas day. That was good, but it is so much better to have so many choices and better tasting food.”
Elam said he was grateful to the volunteers. “It is a great opportunity for people to have a place to go who have nobody or nowhere to go,” he said.
Margaret Blaylock and Clydie Drennan, who are both widows, made their first visits to the Lions Club dinner, though it has been an annual event, since it began.
“I know (the Lions Club members) have been doing this for several years, but this is my first time to be out here,” Blaylock said. “This is a wonderful idea. Some of us wouldn’t know what to do if there weren’t things like this happening on Christmas.”
Drennan said she was appreciative of the effort, because she knows what she would be doing.
“I am really glad they are doing this because, if not, I would have to eat by myself at home.”
The community “showed its heart,” Harris said, regarding the lunch at the center.
“We asked for desserts - we have enough desserts to last us a week,” Harris said. “The response by everyone has been overwhelming. I saw the biggest opening of hearts I have ever seen.”
As patrons were making dessert choices at LBLC, Draper sat at a small table, smiling.
“It is a blessing to be able to help people less fortunate that don’t have Christmas. This is a reminder that this day about giving, not receiving.”