BRADENTON -- Penny Goethe will be at work at 6 a.m. today and that's just fine with her.
She's the kitchen manager for Our Daily Bread, the 17th Avenue West soup kitchen, where almost 300 of the community's needy will break bread for Christmas between 10 a.m. and noon.
"This is family and it gives you the warm feeling of doing the right thing," Goethe said Monday, gazing at the folks filling the dining room at lunch.
"A lot of them are the same faces," she said. "Some are living in cars. Some are from four, five families shoved into a house. We also have a lot of people who are just not making enough, but this helps them keep a roof over their heads, keep their electric on."
A Christmas gift, indeed.
That spirit will also be found today at The Ranch Grill on State Road 70 East and the Salvation Army on 14th Street West, where the homeless and hungry will be welcome to a free Christmas meal.
Our Daily Bread's fare will include turkey and ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.
Sharing that meal on Christmas will have extra meaning, too.
"It's nice to have a hot meal and be together as a family," Goethe said. "It means a lot more to the
people we have come in here. Thanksgiving is a time to remember. Christmas is more of a celebration. It's very peaceful, calm. You'll hear laughter."
Even if it takes a little doing to get there.
"Buses aren't running so a lot of them ride their bikes, ride with other people. Or just walk," she said.
Goethe will be there, regardless.
"I can open presents anytime," she said. "I can't tell them you have to wait to eat. That's family."At least 150 or more are expected from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Ranch Grill, 14475 State Road 70 E., which opened last May 1. There will be a buffet with turkey and ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and more.
"The owners have always done something for Christmas like a food drive or a toy drive," manager Ally Dean said.
"But since this is the first Christmas we've been open, they decided why not have everyone here? It's nice to be at a restaurant and be served."
The Salvation Army, 1204 14th St. W., Bradenton, will serve at least 450 people 4-6 p.m. today. The meal will be ham and turkey, scalloped potatoes, green beans, rolls and dessert.
"We had a big turnout at Thanksgiving and we expect at least that many for Christmas," kitchen manager Brian Schultz said.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix.
IF YOU GO
Christmas meals for the needy will be served today at:
n 10 a.m. to noon at Our Daily Bread, 701 18th Ave. W., Bradenton.
n 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Ranch Grill, 14475 State Road 70, Lakewood Ranch.
n 4-6 p.m. at the Salvation Army, 1204 14th St. W., Bradenton. Call 941-748-5110.