By SUNNY LOCKWOOD
Volunteers began arriving at the Native Sons Hall on Murphys' Main St. around 10 a.m. Christmas morning.
They came from Murphys, Arnold, Angels Camp and as far away as Manteca.
They came to carve turkeys, mash potatoes, slice pies, set tables and, in short, prepare a traditional Christmas Dinner for the hundreds who would show up between 1 and 3 p.m. to eat it.
Murphys Community Christmas dinner has become a tradition for all who want to share a big, old-fashioned holiday feast.
Whether guests or volunteers, everyone finds something special about this free meal served up with so much friendliness.
Calaveras County Supervisor Merita Callaway, a dinner volunteer for more than 20 years, and her daughter, Brianna, a recent college graduate, were on the crew.
"My daughter gets to make the mashed potatoes," Callaway said. "Someone got us involved way back in 1979. We used to go buy the paper plates. Now Brianna has worked herself up the ladder to potato masher."
Asked why they and so many others spend Christmas Day volunteering, Callaway said, "It's become a tradition. And it's a wonderful community event."
Callaway said the dinner was started and is still presented by a group of local residents, but there are those who drive a long way to take part every year.
There's a lot to do when the afternoon will see more than 500 guests coming for dinner. This year Callaway said 624 turkey meals were served; 90 of them to go, delivered by Bret Harte High School special education teacher Ray Beaudreau and his son-in-law, Lorenzo.
Volunteers, like guests, came in all ages and both genders. George Fry of Angels Camp volunteered as a greeter, welcoming guests to the dinner. Gazing over the hundreds of families eating turkey and dressing, Fry said, "This is really what the Christmas spirit is all about everyone sharing a meal together on Christmas day."