Volunteers cook, deliver dinners

Willie Williams has been living on the streets for years, but on Thursday he sat down to a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings.

He has battled addiction for about 20 years, he said, and he admits living on the street for so long that he has grown accustomed to not eating.

But he is trying to turn his life around.

On Thursday, he was one of hundreds fed through Operation Christmas Feast.

"No one feeds on Christmas. Everyone feeds on Thanksgiving," said Diane Koehne, who organized the event and coordinated more than 100 volunteers.

She hoped to feed 2,000 homeless people and shut-ins by the end of Christmas Day.

Volunteers arrived as early as 5 a.m. to begin cooking for those who could make it to the Salvation Army.

For those who couldn't, meals were prepared and delivered to housing projects, neighborhoods and even to street corners, wherever a hungry mouth could be found.

"It's awesome that we can all come together," Ms. Koehne said. "You are blessed. Now give back."

This is Christmas to her family, she said.

Tannar Singer, her 9-year-old daughter, said the work is hard, but rewarding.

"Whatever I have I want to give to them," she said.

Sandra Wimberly, another volunteer, grew up in the "hood" and said it is important for her to give back to her community.

"They need to see people who made it come back," she said. "I just feel since I've been blessed that I can certainly bless other people."

Ms. Wimberly said her family is fortunate, so she took time out of her holiday to care for those who aren't. There is still time in the day for family, she said.

Operation Christmas Feast is entirely the work of volunteers.

"You're seeing the CSRA coming together," Ms. Koehne said. "It just works. I don't know how it works."

She said she and her family hit the streets passing out flyers, spoke through the media and relied on word of mouth to attract those in need and those looking to contribute to the effort.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.