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      Preparing Christmas dinner for 5,000

      Photo Credit: Holly Morgan

      Consider it a holiday equation. Hundreds of volunteers plus five days of baking, chopping and mixing equals thousands of meals for the 22nd Annual Red Cross Christmas Day Dinner.

      Chef Mark Rybicki knows what it takes to make sure 5,000 meals are ready to roll out by Christmas. He's been doing this for 18 years. "We're about to make a ton of stuffing, and we need to make 15-hundred pounds of green beans, yams and potatoes."

      And the turkeys? Chef Mark says they've been cooking 50 per day.

      With four days until Christmas, it'll take nearly 200 volunteers, working five 12 hour days, to pull it all off.

      "I had it very good in the past where I had to carve a few birds and thought I was working hard, but my hats are off to these people who have come back year after year," said Red Cross volunteer, Lee Zulanch.

      That's because the Red Cross Christmas Day Dinner has become a tradition for those in charge in the kitchen. "We prepare meals for several groups including Street Reach {Mission}, Meals on Wheels Mobile Meals, Help for Kids, 1,000 meals go to Loris," said Debbie Conner, a Red Cross coordinator.

      However, most of the meals will be served at several churches on the Grand Strand.

      Many show up because they need the meal, but some just don't want to be alone for the holidays. Others have made it a tradition. Whatever the reason, the volunteers know that a hot holiday meal is bound to warm the heart.

      "You can give a lot, but you receive so much more being here on Christmas Day," Conner said.

      BiLo Charities and donations from the public helped pull this year's dinner off. Christmas gifts for men, women and children will also be given to those who show up on Christmas Day.

      The dinners are free to the public. Here are the Christmas Day times and locations:

      • 1:00 p.m.- 4:00 p.m. at St. John's Greek Orthodox Church, 3301 Highway 17 Bypass, Myrtle Beach
      • 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. at Belin United Methodist Church, 4183 Highway 17 South, Murrells Inlet
      • 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. at Risen Christ Lutheran, 10595 Highway 17 North, Myrtle Beach (next to Barefoot Landing)
      • Noon - 2:00 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, 205 S. Rosemary Avenue, Andrews, Georgetown County