Paul Shahen
Eyewitness News Reporter

Dalton, GA (WRCB) -- The saying goes remember the reason for the season, and one ministry in Dalton, Georgia has been helping others remember the reason for over 10 years now.  Thousands congregated to Providence Ministries today to receive a free Christmas dinner, and even some presents. 

     The doors opened at 11, but the gathering began much earlier.  Providence Ministries expected around 4,000 to show up, but had an even better turnout.

     Providence Ministries President, Roy Johnson said, "I can't help but think there's 5,000 here or more, it's just incredible, every room we've got is full, with thousands in the waiting line."

     Those in line say it's completely worth it. For some it's a hot meal on a warm holiday, and for others it's a warm smile on a child.

     Mari Martinez says, "It's all about the children, they were looking forward to coming and getting a gift. Times are hard, you can't buy as much as you want for them."

     "It means a lot to not only us, but to the supporters and the volunteers that come. To see the excitement in these children's faces, see them blessed. To see parents that would otherwise have a bleak Christmas, have something," said Johnson.

     It's a win win, for a community with the highest unemployment rate in Georgia.

     "It makes me feel good, because there's people out there who care. They care about other people who are less fortunate," said Martinez

     Providence Ministries will serve almost 500 meals a day for free, but Johnson said he can't explain how much more it means during this time of the year.