Oklahomans volunteer time to serve others on Christmas

Friday, December 26th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The death of John Day two years ago changed the way Florelee Day and her son, Bob, celebrate the holidays. The family would trade a traditional Christmas dinner with relatives for a meal with strangers.

The Days have been volunteering to serve dinner at Enid's Salvation Army since November 2001, when John Day, a Salvation Army board member for 31 years, died.

``We thoroughly enjoyed it and have been doing it ever since,'' Florelee Day said. ``Holidays are really tough. Knowing how much John liked the Salvation Army, I was giving to someone else and wasn't thinking about my problems.''

More than 100 people were served at the noon meal and another meal was served later, Maj. John Edmonds said.

Residents in other Oklahoma communities gave their time to serve Christmas meals to those who wouldn't have otherwise had them.

In Oklahoma City, about 500 volunteers made it possible for 2,500 pounds of turkey, 2,000 pounds of dressing, potatoes and green beans, 250 pounds of cranberry sauce and 2,000 loaves of bread to be served at the annual Red Andrews Christmas dinner.

There were 3,000 pints of milk and gallons of soda and coffee brewed from 50 pounds of fresh beans to wash all the food down, officials said.

Selena Zamudio was among the 7,000 people who got a hot meal and among the children who got gifts at the event. When asked which color she choose first in her new Play-Doh set, the 6-year-old said, ``Blue.''

``It's my favorite color. I'm going to make triangles, squares and everything.''

Her 10-year-old sister, Elizabeth Zamudio, watched as Selena talked about her present and her meal. Elizabeth got a makeup kit.

``I'm going to try on everything,'' she said.

In Taft, Deana Sturgill was grateful for the few hours she got to spend with her two daughters and granddaughter on Christmas.

Sturgill, 37, is a trainee at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center. The Muskogee resident has been in the regimented drug treatment program since Aug. 27 and plans to finish in May, she said.

Trainees are residents of the prison in a rehabilitative therapeutic community.

Even though she got to see her family, the holidays can be a lonely time in prison, Sturgill said.

``I'm going to have a lot more peace in my heart knowing they're OK,'' she said. ``It's lonely. It brings a lot of tears to your eyes not knowing how your family is doing.''

In McAlester, staff at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary whipped up Christmas dinner for about 1,400 people.

The menu included ham, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls, peach cobbler, chocolate cake and tea.

Lee Mann, a spokeswoman for the prison, says the inmates got to eat turkey for Thanksgiving.

At nearby Jackie Brannon Correctional Center, staffers served more than 700 inmates turkey and ham, dressing, mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, corn, rolls, chocolate pie, coconut cake and iced tea, officials said.