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Dinner helps spread holiday spirit

BUDE – It’s been an annual event for some 16 years and itcontinues to grow as scores of volunteers set up shop at theHomochitto Restaurant for the Community Christmas Dinner.

Under the direction of Judge Hollis McGehee, local businesses,firms and individuals donate their time and assistance to providefood for the elderly, sick, shut-in and less fortunate.

“We started this whole thing because we knew there were somepeople spending their Christmas alone with little or nothing,”McGehee said Friday. “That’s why we called it the CommunityChristmas Dinner, so people could come together and sit and eat andjust have a good time together.”

McGehee said that it worked in the beginning, but they nevercould get enough people to come out to eat.

“Most wanted to take their dinners home to be with families andfriends,” said McGehee. “We then got volunteers to take the food todifferent parts of the county, and it continued to build fromthere. It really bothers me to think that someone is sitting homealone not having anybody to share the spirit with.”

Two of those who have helped McGehee since its inception alsoexpressed their sentiments.

“I worked for McGehee when he started this and it was and isvery fulfilling and satisfying to me,” said Vanessa Walker. “We’llprobably serve somewhere in the vicinity of 900 dinners. This hastruly grown from the nearly 200 we served in the first year.”

Celia Seale has also lent her time and support to the event.

“This is my 13th year,” she said. “I enjoy seeing people in thecommunity who don’t have close family around or may be shut-in, andI just want to add a little bit of Christmas joy to their life.It’s a nice feeling to be able to provide assistance to them.”

One volunteer didn’t mind taking time out of her day to help inany way she could.

“I have no idea how long I’ve been doing this, but it makes mefeel good,” said Missy Newman.

Even people from other areas also expressed their desire topitch in.

“Hollis (McGehee) is one of the best friends I’ve ever had and Iwanted to give him a hand,” said Pike County native CalvinCosnahan. “During this time of year, I really like to help otherfolks who aren’t as fortunate as some. That’s why it’s reallyimportant.”

Natchez resident Kirby Carlock has been making his yearly tripto Franklin County for the last six years.

“I’ve been doing this for a total of 10 years, being born andraised here,” said Carlock. “Even though I live in Natchez now, Istill like to help.”

Meadville resident “Pep” Cameron, who was one of many deliverydrivers who volunteered their services, was excited about beingable to help.

“I was very sick at one point in my life and I prayed to God,”said Cameron. “He made me better, and at the age of 74, I’m in thebest health I’ve ever been in. I thank Him by helping others in mycommunity. This is only one way.”

Even part of McGehee’s family was there to help.

“I’ve been doing this, helping my brother since it started,”said Bowmar McGehee. “I mainly deliver in the Roxie area and thisis always a wonderful experience. People who have never deliveredmeals and seen the faces of the people, well, there’s nothing likeit. I feel like I get a bigger blessing out of it than I feel Iought to. Some people need help, and it’s a joy to see a smile ontheir faces when you bring food to them.”

McGehee appreciates all the help.

“The one thing that pleases me beyond recognition is the factthat I don’t have to ask for volunteers,” said McGehee. “When thedate is announced, people show up to help. It makes all thedifference in the world.”