Volunteers Serve Up Holiday Meals For People In Need

Volunteers delivered hot meals along with warm holiday wishes.

Each year hundreds of people gather at the Air Guard Base in Gulfport on Christmas Day to pack meals for the needy.

Elena and Keona Chapman's parents want them to realize Christmas should be about more than the gifts Santa brings.

This year the family spent part of their Christmas serving the community.

"I wanted them to help other people and realize how blessed they are and how lucky they are," said Helen Chapman, the girls' mother.

Laurie Dott's desire to help others took her a long way from home this Christmas.

She came to Mississippi from Canada after seeing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

"We watched the news on August 29th and we were moved to come to Mississippi and help people," said Dott. "First time in 33 years we've been separated from our sons but this is a wonderful Christmas and we're blessed to be here. We really are."

Volunteers packed enough holiday dinners to deliver to 1,600 people.

The meals would nourish bodies.

The fellowship would nourish spirits.

Sheriff George Payne started the feeding when he was Gulfport's police chief.

"Christmas for a lot of people is a day of joy with your entire family, but a lot of us don't have any family left. It can also be a very lonely day and the only person they may see that day is the person delivering that meal so we ask our volunteers to take a little extra time to say Merry Christmas and maybe talk to the person," says Sheriff Payne.

Sheriff Payne says Hurricane Katrina was no match for the Christmas spirit.

Just as many volunteers showed up for this year's holiday feeding as in the past years.

Some people here say they are here because the storm taught them what it's like to be the ones in need.

Tiffany Killen said "I told my husband on the way here that we've lost everything in the storm and people have just been so great to us, giving us so much and this is our little way of giving back finally.'"

It took the 300 volunteers at the Air Guard Base about two hours to pack the meals.