The Food For Kids organization began spreading holiday cheer on Friday morning by giving away free food and turkeys to about 400 families and individuals.

Food For Kids and its 12th annual Turkey Giveaway, held in the St. Francis Baptist Church parking lot, was started by Shelia and Kenzie Gilbert and is part of a wider effort to provide food to children and families in need.

"We do this every year, and we enjoy it," Kenzie Gilbert said. "We are very privileged to be able to help out the community."

In addition to the fall giveaway, Food For Kids provides lunches for children during the summer months to bridge the gap for those who receive assistance from the St. Joseph School District during the school year through free or reduced meals.

The Gilberts' main goal is to bring the community together and spread joy.

"We want to see love coming together in the community, and this gives us the opportunity to bring a lot of different nationalities together," Shelia Gilbert said. "You don't know who's in your community until you come together."

In addition to turkeys, participants were able to get bread, noodles, milk and other pantry staples. People were lined up well in advance of the 11 a.m. giveaway, and some came even earlier.

"A lot of people came by at six o'clock this morning and late yesterday because they had to work in the morning," Shelia Gilbert said. "It's the first time in 12 years."

The American Red Cross was present to hand out hot drinks, and Wendy's provided 150 lunches. Paula Dysart, general manager of the North Belt Wendy's location, was asked by the Gilberts to join the efforts three years ago, and she didn't hesitate.

"Each year we give 300 Junior Frosty coupons for the after-school program, and then today we're giving out 150 sandwiches," Dysart said. "It makes me feel really good. St. Joe has a lot of people that need the help and need the people to go above and beyond."

Jessica Kopp can be reached at or you can follow her on Twitter: @NPNOWKopp