While most children were opening presents on Christmas morning, Tanner and Skylar Davis were helping prepare meals for the less fortunate, and enjoying it.
Tanner, 9, and Skylar, 6, were with parents Lora and Brandon Davis in the kitchen of the former Cannon Street Elementary School among other volunteers on the chilly morning, boxing and packing meals for the needy in the area. Lora Davis said she had been looking for something for the family to do around Christmas time and found out about the meal on Facebook. After a few calls, they were set.
“The kids are already talking about doing it next year,” their mother said. “They have really good and giving spirits. This is more important than Christmas presents for them.”
Although they already had opened presents from family on Christmas Eve, the children had not yet opened their gifts from Santa on Christmas day. Instead, they were putting the finishing touches on the boxed meals, Skylar adding short bread and Tanner sealing the lids as their mom packed the meal containers into large boxes and keeping count – 40 per box.
“It’s showing the kids that there is more to do on Christmas day than open presents,” father Brandon Davis said.
The family attends Rosemont Baptist Church and said volunteering helps show the children the morals and values they feel are important to learn, as well as the selflessness that is lacking in many people.
“We’re very blessed in life,” Brandon Davis said. “We asked the kids to give up their time at home to come out here … and I feel like if more people would get involved, there would be less need. We need to quit being so much about self. That’s a problem with my generation, too much ‘it’s about me; what’s in it for me?’”
Along with the Davis family, many other volunteers were out Wednesday morning to prepare meals for the needy, including some veterans of the program.
Fannie Sanders, 81, has been the “dressing lady” for the last 15 years of the program. She has cooked about 100 pounds of dressing for each of the annual Thanksgiving and Christmas Up All Night meals each year.
“I started years ago in my house, and when Jake (Sessions, program organizer) started, I came over here,” Sanders said. “It’s such a rewarding thing. There are so many people with no families and nothing to eat. I always wanted to give back.”
However, Sanders said this was her last year, at 81, she’s looking to retire as the “dressing lady,” although she said she would probably still be involved in some way.
Devita Dean has been volunteering for the meal for the last 10 years “to be a blessing to someone else.” She said that helping those who can’t help themselves is “the reason for the season.”
Yvonne Benham has been assisting with the program for the last three years.
“I just enjoy helping out,” she said. “… I feel great about doing this. It’s a really good feeling to know that when you open their doors – because I’ve delivered as well in previous years – that they don’t really expect it, especially the older folks. I feel like I’m doing a good deed.”