ATLANTA - Volunteers worked into the pre-dawn hours to prepare for the thousands of people they're planning to feed at the annual Christmas dinner hosted by Hosea Williams Feed the Hungry and Homeless.
The free event that started 10 a.m. at the Georgia World Congress Center on 285 Andrew Young International Blvd. in northwest Atlanta.
Volunteers cooked 500 pounds of rice, 90 pounds of gravy and 1,000 turkeys with all of the fixings, Chef Ed Parker told Channel 2's Ashley Swann.
He, with the help of several volunteers, spent Monday night cooking for the anticipated crowd, which he said is something he looks forward to doing every year.
"It just really makes a good, great Christmas. The people are happy. You can see it in their face(s), especially the kids. It may be the only hot meal they get that
day, and it works out for us (because) we enjoy serving," said Parker, who has participated in the event for more than 20 years.
The nonprofit initiative, founded in 1971 by late civil rights
activist Hosea Williams, bills itself as the nation's largest sit-down dinner for the homeless and hungry.
In addition to dinner, scores of professionals offered their services, ranging from haircuts to medical care. All the children who attended the event received Christmas toys and holiday goodies organizers said.
"While the holiday season is filled with lost of joy and cheer for so many Americans, for just as many more it is a time of lost hope and despair," said Elizabeth Omilami, HFTH executive officer.
Omilami said the organization strives to bring light to individuals and families who would otherwise have nothing to celebrate.