RIPLEY, Miss. (WTVA) -- What better way to say Merry Christmas than with a hot meal in hand, complete with ham, dressing and even dessert?
It began as a mission to feed those who weren't able to be with their family for the holidays or residents who couldn't cook a traditional meal.
"About 18 years ago, my father, Wayne Windham, really wanted to do something for people in the community [who] didn't have all that he had," Trader's Inn co-owner Jerry Windham said. "He felt fortunate. We don't have a lot of things, but we do have a facility here at First Monday that enables us to do that. So he and a few volunteers got together and said, 'Let's feed 'em.'"
And through the support of area churches, they're able to do that and then some.
Many, like the members of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Faulkner, say they're just happy to be a part of it and show kindness to others by taking these meals all over the area.
"It makes me feel good. It shows leadership within our community and leadership within the city of Ripley," Bethlehem Baptist Church member Carnell Simelton said. "I look at it this way. It's not about your family; it's about the people in need. We get joy out of doing it because we know there's a reward. We're not doing it for personal gain, but just to help others, and this is one of our ways of helping people."
And that's how the event has continued for nearly two decades, even adding a dulcimer group in recent years that plays Christmas songs.
Then things changed for Jerry Windham.
His father got sick, and Jerry had a personal choice to make: continue what his father had done for so many years or move on and do something else.
"I tried to pick up his torch and carry it for him. I guess as a result I felt, when people come through -- and I know a lot of them, I see a lot of them -- they eat good today," Jerry Windham said. "They reap the celebration they were meant to experience. And I've come to get that feeling that my dad has had for a long time, and it's a good feeling."