BRADENTON -- Chase Rembo held up his freshly unwrapped Legos set excitedly, forgetting about his Christmas meal from the Salvation Army for a moment as he gripped the box.
"I really like Legos," the 6-year-old said. "I got a police one and a firemen one, too."
Chase's mother, Maya Rembo, looked on with a small smile. Rembo said she'd been wrongfully evicted from her apartment two weeks ago, coming home from her job at Five Guys to her possessions on the lawn and her dog in the pound. After staying with the Salvation Army for a week, she's had to live out of a motel recently.
"It's been really hard. I didn't have anywhere to go," she said. "We didn't get much of a Christmas this year."
Rembo said it was at least nice to not have to worry about a Christmas meal, and volunteers handed out new socks to both her and her son, in addition to the toy.
"We always try to have a little something for kids," said Christine Smith, spokeswoman for the Salvation Army of Manatee County. "And people usually bring in other donations, like the socks and toiletries, and hand them out."
Smith said the annual Sal
vation Army Christmas dinner featured 200 pounds of ham, 100 pounds of sweet potatoes, 100 pounds of green beans, 40 pies, 40 cakes and 400 rolls this year. She said they always prepare enough food for 400 and welcome any in need to come eat.
Debra and Ken Carey, who have been volunteering with the Salvation Army for six years, said the meal really puts them in touch with what the holiday is about.
"It's very gratifying," said Ken Carey, who volunteers every week. "Every once in a while someone will say, 'I got a job.'"
"That makes his day," Debra Carey added.
The Careys said Christmas was a particularly special meal because they served the meal to the people, instead of having them go through the serving line.
"It's nice to sit and relax," said Michael Martinez, who has lived with the Salvation Army for one year.
The youngest volunteer was 10-year-old Zach Olivera, who served food and wished people a Merry Christmas. He said his mother had convinced him to do it, but that he was glad to be there.
"She told me, 'If you help people, maybe you'll get something good back,'" Zach said.
Kate Irby, Online reporter, can be reached at 745-7055. Follow her on Twitter @kateirby.