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Steve Moon was on his way to a candlelight church service on Christmas Eve with a turkey in the refrigerator when he and his wife, Lois, had an epiphany.
The couple, hosting their son and grandson at their Hilton Head Island condo, remembered how much they enjoyed the fellowship they found at last year's Our Community Christmas Day Dinner.
So rather than cook the turkey they had waiting, they decided to return to the Holiday Inn Oceanfront.
"This is just such a neat outreach thing for the neighborhood," said Steve Moon, a Realtor.
The free turkey buffet for residents and visitors of Hilton Head Island and Bluffton, now in its seventh year, lasts for four hours and is run by 300 volunteers, some of whom start at 2:15 a.m.
Organizers planned to serve food, all of which was donated, to about 900 people between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
That total includes the volunteers, many of whom wore red and green as they sang Christmas carols and heaped mashed potatoes, turkey, gravy, green beans and the like onto plates.
Organizers, who collect money for Second Helpings and Meals on Wheels and give any leftovers to Second Helpings, say the dinner is intended to spread the Christmas spirit.
For Holden Williams, a marketing consultant from Worcester, Mass., this was the third year he has volunteered to usher guests to their tables while visiting his mother-in-law.
The bearded and bespectacled man said he likes to meet and greet the diverse cast of diners and volunteers who come together to share the holiday within sight of the beach.
Besides, he would be "a disaster" if stationed in the kitchen, he said.
Williams e-mailed the dinner's leaders in November to ask if they could use his help again.
He previously worked at a soup kitchen in Worcester for Christmas, but he said the Hilton Head event has replaced that as a staple of his holiday.
"It wouldn't be Christmas if I didn't come here," Williams said before escorting the Moons and their son, Peter, and grandson, Kenton, to a booth.
As the Moons were eating dessert, a group of carolers led by dinner matriarch Barb O'Connor marched in to celebrate "the most important birthday of the year" and sing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."
At the end of the song, the Moons, who hosted a different set of relatives last year, said they would like to help with the dinner in the future.
"The next year we don't have anybody here, we need to volunteer," Steve said.
"Yes," replied Lois. "Yes, we do."
Once the Moons finished their meal, the next wave of diners began pouring in, a sight that pleased O'Connor.
"I love it when it gets to a feverish pitch," she said.