WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Hundreds of people came together to celebrate Christmas with a warm meal Wednesday in Wilmington.
Walking Tall Wilmington hosted its annual Christmas dinner, open to anyone who wanted to join.
“We get hung up with the things that Christmas has become, and we’ve lost that Christmas is about community and about presence,” Walking Tall’s Marya Evans said.
Evans is talking about a different kind of “presence” than the “presents” you find under your tree.
“We know that many of our friends struggle with feeling invisible,” she said.
On Christmas especially, Evans and her husband Randy want everyone to feel loved, and what better way to bond than through food.
“To be able to come in and just ask them their name and treat them no different, because they aren’t,” Evans said. “There’s one circumstance that changes us. Our belief is the thing that’s going to end poverty are relationships.”
Evans and her husband started Walking Tall Wilmington and have been helping people in need for the last several years. This year marked their fifth Christmas dinner.
“The first year we did it, it was very throw together,” she said. “It was a hodge podge of, ‘Come on here and let’s try this.’ The first couple years, a lot of it fell on our own shoulders.”
Saint Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and Trinity United Methodist Church helped put on the dinner.
With help from Wesley United Methodist Church, Evans says they were even able to give out dozens of reverse advent boxes.
“We give them a list of names and a list of items,” she said. “Unlike the hygiene kits and things like that, these are the things that because of our relationships, we know they really need.”
To look out on this room full of people, Evans says that’s all she needs.
“I don’t care that I didn’t have any presents under the tree this morning because this is my present,” she said. “This is awesome to be able to see this.”
Evans says Walking Tall prepares meals six days a week to deliver to people in downtown Wilmington. She says they are always looking for more volunteers to help out throughout the year.