The Christmas shopping season was over. Music City Mall in Lewisville was closed. But dozens of people lined up outside the one place in the mall which remained open on Christmas Day.
Outside a shipping dock at the mall, Bill Milroy and others were smoking and cutting up 100 beef briskets.
“Well, I have the equipment to where we can cook a large number of briskets,” he explained.
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For Milroy, founder of the Texas Rib Rangers BBQ team, it’s more than that.
“Understanding what it's like to find something to eat on Christmas day is kind of tough to do,” said Milroy.
Especially, if you’re a first responder – something Milroy also has experience with.
“They're either going to be eating a 7-11 hot dog,” he said. “Or one of those burritos, throw it in the microwave and stuff."
“Now see, if you're smart, you find a fire station,” laughed Jim Searles, a former police officer. “Because firemen always know how to cook. It's nice to not to have to cook."
Searles is the founder of “Feed a Hero.” It’s an effort which takes care of meals for first responders across North Texas, who find themselves working on Christmas Day.
“The way this got started is, we literally took a turkey dinner to a Denton fire station,” he explained.
From that small beginning, with his family – the event has grown. The first year, in 2014, Feed a Hero fed 50 first responders. Last year, 1,600 were served. This year, through food distribution sites in Lewisville and Fort Worth -- 4,500.
“This is Christmas Day for us,” said Searles. “We want nothing more than to do this."
All of the food and supplies are donated. All of it is prepared and packaged by volunteers.
“Well, it’s exciting,” said Delores Robinson, who scooped up containers of potato salad with her husband, Andy. “Because of the fact that my heart is there."
Robinson retired after more than three decades with the Lewisville Fire Department. This was her first year volunteering with Feed a Hero. She and other volunteers may have even more work to do next year.
“Next year the sky’s the limit," said Milroy. “We’ll do 10,000 if we can find that many first responders. I think we can."