LAWRENCEVILLE - This year has been a struggle for Cecily Bromfield.
After three years in Atlanta, she's finally working. But four months with a corporate job still wasn't enough for the single mother of four to have enough money for Christmas.
"We're playing catch-up," she said. "It's not that I don't work, it's just very hard. Just buying groceries every two weeks is really hard."
Bromfield brought 13-year-old Nicholas to the Lawrenceville VFW Christmas morning for food, carols and the camaraderie of knowing other people were in similar situations.
"I wanted the kids to realize that regardless of what we don't have at Christmas, we have a lot more than some people," said the mother who has been homeless three times. "We've got still so much to be grateful for."
Bobigene Pack, the founder of Love in Action outreach ministries, said she expected about 300 people to come to the program for dinner and prayer. Knowing that she is helping people is her Christmas gift, Pack said.
"It gives them the strength to try again," she said. "Nothing means more to me."
For Melody Hansford, the meal was an opportunity to spend Christmas with her children, 4-year-old Shamarayih and 15-year-old Troycobb. Troycobb isn't living with his mother now, but said he liked being able to see his family for the holidays.
Seeing people happy is what made it a good Christmas for her, Hansford said.
"I'm having fun, it's a beautiful day," she said. "That's the main thing."
Paula Alonzo, a volunteer, said her daughter is active with the ministry. Alonzo said she had often wanted to help out on Christmas but had never had the opportunity. The experience, she said, made her really happy.
Melanie Wright said she woke up Christmas morning thinking about volunteering and remembered the program had been mentioned at her church. Divorced with no children, Wright said serving food to people who need it was much better than spending her holiday alone.
"The spirit of giving back fills me," she said. "It replaces a void you can't really explain. To see people happy and fed, it warms my heart."