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      Red Cross Christmas dinners more than just a meal

      Red Cross Christmas dinner at a church in Andrews.

      MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WPDE) - On Christmas Eve many spend time with family and friends around the dinner table. For more than a week Red Cross volunteers have been preparing for their annual Christmas dinner for the community that thousands are expected to attend.

      In the kitchen of St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Myrtle Beach, volunteers were in the final hours of preparing to feed 6,000 today. In all, there are 300 turkeys to carve along with green beans, yams, and stuffing to prepare. Self-proclaimed "food coordinator" Mark Rybicki said getting all the food ready is not the difficult part.

      "The biggest challenge is keeping the volunteers busy. We have hundreds of volunteers over this ten days cooking and they come here and they earnestly want to give their time," Rybicki explained.

      This more than two decade old tradition began with just feeding a couple hundred people and each year it continues to grow.

      "It's a wonderful thing for the Red Cross to bring the community together under nice circumstances. Normally when the Red Cross is involved it's some sort of disaster. A fire or something that isn't a pleasant thing," added Rybicki.

      He enjoys volunteering his time and expertise, "we want to make people happy."

      Dave Duncan, a Canadian snow bird who always pitches in, enjoys the company of the other volunteers.

      "I see a lot of the same people the year over that I don't see any other time," said Duncan. "Being retired it's a good reason to get up in the morning and go do something."

      After the hours and hours of prep work, the first dinner was served Monday afternoon at Trinity United Methodist church in Andrews.

      "Everybody is cheerful. There's usually no problems, no arguments. It's a great dinner, it's a great time," added Duncan.

      Everyone is welcome to attend the Christmas dinners from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday. They're being held at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Myrtle Beach, Belin United Methodist in Murrells Inlet and Risen Christ in North Myrtle Beach.