Volunteers preparing over 14,000 holiday meals for families in need across the Grand Strand
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - A holiday tradition that started after Hurricane Hugo is still going strong across the Grand Strand area.
More than 300 volunteers with “Community Christmas Dinner” are helping to make Christmas brighter for families. Many pitching in to cook, prepare and deliver meals for their neighbors.
Half-chickens were being cooked Thursday at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Myrtle Beach, as volunteers prepared over 14,000 meals.
The nonprofit volunteer program has been helping families with a hot meal so they can have a Christmas celebration, along with shut-ins and those without shelter.
They’ve partnered with charity organizations like Help 4 Kids and Meals on Wheels of Horry County to help feed families and children across the Grand Strand and surrounding area.
Janice Sialiano started Community Christmas Dinner after Hurricane Hugo hit the area, providing a free holiday dinner for families who had nowhere else to go.
“First year, 1989 we fed 500 people,” she said. “This year we will provide meals for 14,000 people. We bumped to 14,000 not realizing food costs this year were going through the roof. Somehow we were able to pull it together, even though our food costs went way up, we were able to raise the funds to make this happen.”
Sialiano says the cost of food also impacted their food selections.
“Because of food costs we went from turkey and ham this year to half chickens,” she said.
21,500 pounds of it, to be exact.
The organization is also prepping 5,800 pounds of fresh sweet potato casserole, 4,100 pounds of mashed potatoes, 4,000 pounds of green beans along with 14,000 servings of dessert.
Sialiano and volunteers say in the end, they’re grateful to make Christmas time even better for so many in their community.
“They’re so happy somebody is delivering them a meal and crying on the phone [because] they have no food. To know we got their backs, it’s just really special to me that we can do that,” Sialiano said.
Many of the volunteers in the kitchen are employees with Crabby Mike’s in Surfside Beach.
Owner Michael Arakas serves on the Community Christmas Dinner board, and mentioned that he’s enjoyed seeing the movement grow into what it is today.
“I got involved 22 years ago,” he said. “It’s really grown. It’s great, I’ve got all my managers here, they love doing it.”
Arakas says he looks forward to the day the holiday event can return to an in-person experience.
“Without fellowship due to COVID we’re just delivering the meals or they’re picking them up,” he said.
There may still be time for neighbors in need to receive a Christmas meal, but Sialiano said it would be for those who live in the Myrtle Beach area only.
You must call the organization before noon on Christmas Eve at 843-781-1326.
Click here for more information.
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