Salvation Army feeds over 8,000 in annual Christmas Family Feast

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The biggest Christmas meal in Wisconsin was served in downtown Milwaukee on Christmas Day! The Salvation Army prepared meals for more than 8,000 people -- and the meal that means so much to so many was served on Wednesday afternoon, December 25th.

This is the 24th year of the Salvation Army's "Christmas Family Feast."

The Wednesday afternoon meal was free and open to the public -- and it took A LOT of volunteers to get everything ready in time.

Every plate served in the Wisconsin Center ballroom on Wednesday had a story behind it. Some said they didn't know where they would be spending Christmas afternoon if it wasn't for the warmth of the meal served by volunteers.

"Some of the people who have come today won`t have a meal otherwise.  Where they typically would have a meal is perhaps closed," Dan Jennings, the Salvation Army Divisional Commander for Wisconsin said.

Some FOX6 News spoke with at the meal found themselves alone on the holiday -- in need of warmth and Christmas comfort with others.

The meal included all the Christmas feast fixings, including turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, and more!

On hand for the meal included Wisconsin's First Family.

"There is a tremendous need.  Not only financially, but for many it`s the fellowship: not having access to friends and family nearby," Gov. Scott Walker said.

The Mandel family has volunteered at the feast for the past three years.

"There are less fortunate people out there.  It`s just a good way to give back," Chris Mandel said.

It's a way to pass along a positive message to the younger generation, and it reinforces the true meaning of the Christmas holiday.

"Not everybody gets something. It`s nice to give out stuff to other people," 11-year-old Henry Mandel said.

"We`re fortunate enough to have good things in life. It`s time to give back," Jennifer Mandel said.

Many of the food items are donations.

The Salvation Army says it's difficult to estimate how much the Christmas Family Feast actually costs the organization -- but the Salvation Army says it will be part of Milwaukee's holiday tradition for many years to come.