Salvation Army's Christmas Family Feast gives food, fellowship to thousands

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by Lane Kimble

MILWAUKEE -- More than 8,000 people packed into the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee Christmas Day thanks to the Salvation Army.  The nationwide group held its 24th Family Feast, which has more than doubled in size over the years.

"There's some people that would be hungry today if they weren't here receiving this meal," Major Dan Jennings said.  "And others that have come  for the fellowship, to spend time with other people."

That's the case for George Toeller, who didn't get any invites from family this Christmas.

"You ask around and you can meet new people" Toeller said.  "And you can have a fun time too."

Doors opened to anyone around 11 a.m.  Most of Olivia Scott's family lives in Ohio, so she's thankful for the fellowship.

"To be able to meet other people in the community and just being able to have this opportunity, I love it," Scott said.

Serving close to 10,000 people takes plenty of help.  More than 1200 volunteers offered their time Wednesday and about 4,000 volunteered over the last month to make the meal possible.

"I just lost a father not too long ago this year and it's really nice to be able to give back and be here for all  the people that don't have a place to be for Christmas," volunteer Kevin Rupnick said.

"I want to help everybody in the world," child volunteer Britnee Jackson said. 

"It makes people happy and that's what counts on Christmas," fellow helper Kayla Siegel said.

Some of the volunteers had familiar faces.  Governor Scott Walker, his wife and sons have been helping for 11 years.
 

"It's not all about presents, it's not all about toys," Governor Walker said.  "There really is more to be grateful for this Christmas and we see that with a lot of the families we see year after year here."

"Frankly, the faces that light up," State Senator Lena Taylor added.  "When we just do little things, like give a candy cane or give a Christmas card, or just give some love."

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