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Best Christmas ever
Broadway homeless meal pic
Aunika Light, 12, pictured far left, prepares to serve a hot meal and bag of treats to the homeless in Broadway Park on Christmas Eve morning with the help of her family and friends. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

Turlock Junior High student Aunika Light got her Christmas wish. She didn't wish for an iPhone, video games or any other electronic gadget popular with the pre-teen crowd. No, all Light wanted was to feed the homeless.

Early Christmas Eve morning, Light and a group of family and friends set up a table at Broadway Park, had a quick prayer and then served a hot meal along with a couple of sandwiches for later to the dozen or so homeless that were in the area.

"It's amazing to see," said Light of the reaction she sees from those she served.

Light's calling to help the less fortunate at Christmas began three years ago when she begged her mom to let her take some food to those living in the park. At the time, her mom only had a chicken and some potatoes in the house, but Light convinced her to cook it up and soon they were off to feed the hungry the little extra that they had.

The next year, Light's mom posted their Christmas Eve meal service plan on Facebook and soon family and friends offered to donate food and help them serve. That year there was enough food for everyone, despite the increase in the number they served. The way the food seemed to last until everyone was fed was a "loaves and fishes miracle," according to Light.

Although she wasn't able to serve a meal last year, this year's event was bigger than ever with enough food and goodie bags to serve over 100 people. It wasn't easy for the 12-year-old to coordinate such a large project. She started asking friends, family members and local businesses for donations in mid-November. Her mom also put in a lot of work, getting up at 4:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve to start cooking what has become their tradition meal of chicken and potatoes.

Light said all the hard work is worth it.

"A little girl came up to me and said it's the bestest Christmas she's ever had," said Light. "That really touched me."