The Valdosta Daily Times
Early Christmas morning, while kids were trying to convince their parents that it was time to get up, Eddie L. Koonce was busy tending to turkeys and hams.
Koonce, along with other volunteers, worked to put on Kemet Universal's “Day of Caring, Sharing and Giving,” an annual event where local Sons of Solomon Chapter No. 151 and Electra No. 323 provide a free, home-cooked Christmas meal.
Now in its 25th year, it's become a Christmas tradition.
“We started it because we wanted to make a difference,” said Koonce, grandmaster and organizer. “We asked God to give this to us and he did. We're just servants. If we didn't have this to do on Christmas morning and Thanksgiving, I don't know what we would do.”
Over the years, different churches and organizations throughout the community have hosted Kemet's Christmas dinner. This year, St. John's African Methodist Episcopal Church hosted the event.
“This is my church, actually, so it's like home. We're bringing it home.”
In past years, the meal has been presented straightway, but this year, organizers wanted to also hold a Christmas service, complete with hymns, carols and a sermon.
“With the economy the way it is and people without jobs, our mission is to attend to and assist the needy,” said St. John AME Interim Pastor Jacqueline Smith. “People need to know the purpose of Christmas is not bright lights and gift giving, it's about a gift that has been given to us from eternity.”
As the Christmas service took place in the church next door, volunteers finished last-minute preparations, laying out food and drinks and manning the lines.
“I'm proud of what (our volunteers) do,” said Koonce. “These are the people some people have forgotten about. Somebody has to feed these people and we'll do it the best we can. All of the stores are closed, but this church is open. We're open for business.”