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Macon Christmas feast draws crowds with food, gifts and fellowship

Terminal Station in Macon was bustling Christmas Day as scores of people enjoyed conversation, food, music and more.

Over 1,500 people came out during the day for Anita Ponder & Friends Holiday Feast as the function celebrated 20 years in Middle Georgia.

The event began in 1996 when Ponder's family took food to a senior citizens community center in Fort Valley.

On Friday, the former Macon City Council president said it was "unreal" to see what the affair has become. About 550 meals were delivered in the morning to senior citizens and another 1,500 plates were served at Terminal Station.

So many people come out there weren't any side dishes left by the end, Ponder said.

"It was a successful day," she said. "I see kids riding around on scooters and kids riding around on their bicycles, and people enjoying the snowman cake. One family came to me and said, 'I was burnt out and I was able to get clothes.' When I'm able to look and see that the people we wanted to have a merry Christmas had a merry Christmas, then it made my Christmas merry."

Friday's event not only included the traditional holiday spread of turkey, ham and dressing, but also a clothes bank and free haircuts. Volunteers also donated laptops and electronic tablets that were given to older children.

About 30 minutes in, Kool & The Gang's "Celebration" blared from speakers shortly after the invocation. Inside the historic building was a 3-foot tall snowman cake that was the centerpiece of the desert table. Nearby, several children checked out an array of bicycles and scooters spread out near a Christmas tree; the bikes and scooters would be given out as gifts.

As the last living member of his immediate family, Robert King spent Christmas afternoon at the feast with his fiancee, Georgia May Patterson.

The 65-year-old heard about the event a couple days ago from a Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority bus driver, but forgot about it until he took a walk Friday morning and happened upon Terminal Station.

"There's nice people out here," said King, who moved to Macon in July from Daytona Beach, Florida. "This is the kind of atmosphere I like to be in."

There were more than 300 volunteers that helped pull off Friday's gathering. Among them were 18 students from Westside High School's chapter of DECA Inc. Those members of the organization, which aims to prepare future business leaders and entrepreneurs, served plates of food and helped with other tasks.

"We're leaders of our school and know that in order to be leaders, you have to serve first," Westside senior Kennedy Ellington said.

To contact writer Stanley Dunlap, call 744-4623 or find him on Twitter@stan_telegraph.

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