GASTONIA, N.C. -- For the volunteers at East Baptist Church in Gastonia, it’s the longest, most satisfying day of the year.
“There is a need out there; you’ve got people that’s gotten laid off, their unemployment has run out, they got children that they are trying to find a hot meal for,” said organizer Jeff Bryson.
For the thirteenth year in a row, the church is holding its annual Christmas feast; dinner will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday and last until noon Christmas Day, serving for a total of 18 hours.
"How many turkeys are in there... 25. We got 25 turkeys in there slow cooking; started them at 6 o'clock last night," said volunteer Reid Brafford.
Last year more than 2200 hot plates were given out; this year the goal is to serve 2400 people.
John Davis has been volunteering for six years.
“This is Jeff Bryson’s famous recipe tater salad; we’ll do about 500 pounds of it before the night is over, it’s a long day, but it’s fun,” he said.
In addition to the food, the church is also giving away clothing and toys, and holding a drawing to give away more than 20 bicycles.
George Belk and his daughter Georgia decided to make a donation at the last minute, and dropped off a couple of bikes.
“Dad was like ‘let’s go get some bikes,’ ‘you’re just such a sweetheart,’ I think it’s a good thing-- definitely the meaning of Christmas for sure,” said Georgia Belk.
Reid Brafford agrees, and that’s why he’s been doing this for six years.
"It just makes it all worth it at 6 o’clock to see all these families and kids that otherwise may not have a hot meal or leave with a bag of food or toys," he said.