With laser focus, 10-year-old LeAndrea Hayden balanced a full plate of food in each hand, carrying them through a busy cafeteria from the kitchen to a table where two grateful men sat waiting.
LeAndrea was among about 100 volunteers with the Lexington Rescue Mission who served Christmas dinner — which included ham, beans, mashed potatoes, rolls and a selection of cakes — to Lexington's poor and homeless Tuesday. LeAndrea, her father, grandmother and aunt spent several hours setting up, serving and cleaning at Broadway Christian Church downtown.
"God has given us so much, I thought we should give a little back," said LeAndrea's father, Lee Hayden, a captain with Lexington Division of Fire. "I wanted to teach her that it's good to be able to serve those less fortunate. ... You never know what the next man is going through."
The Lexington Rescue Mission, a faith-based non-profit for Lexington's poor and homeless, provided hot meals for about 300 men, women and children Christmas day from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
A large number of those who packed the church's cafeteria at any given time were volunteers, said Natalie Cunningham, public relations coordinator with the Lexington Rescue Mission.
Many of the volunteers were recruited through churches. Others were "regulars" at the rescue mission, and several others were just looking for an opportunity to serve others on Christmas, Cunningham said.
Jade Hutter, 27, a volunteer at the rescue mission, learned of the program through the University of Kentucky, where she studies social work. It was her first Christmas volunteering.
Hutter said the mission was "a great way to help from the ground up — just basic human needs like food, shelter, clothes."
The Lexington Rescue Mission, which provides prayer, programs, financial help and transitional housing, serves meals to Lexington's poor and homeless each Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Broadway Christian Church, 187 North Broadway, donates space for the meals each year. This year, the church also set aside space where the men and women could come in and sit down while waiting for their meals.