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Organic Soup Kitchen hosts 10th annual Christmas Day meal in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara’s Organic Soup Kitchen held its 10th annual Christmas Day meal on Tuesday afternoon.

Nearly 200 volunteers worked to prepare and serve food to those who needed a warm meal. Hundreds came through the doors at the Veterans Memorial Building on the waterfront in Santa Barbara to eat and celebrate the holiday.

“[This began] back in 2009 when we were going through a heavy recession and there was a lot of families that were separated,” Organic Soup Kitchen founder and executive director Anthony Carroccio. “And we tried pulling them together using this event. And a little at a time, we just kept going.”

Santa made an appearance to hand out gifts to people of all ages and genders, while singers Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins also stopped by to play live music.

Volunteers worked on Christmas Eve to cook the food and wrap presents. Other volunteers arrived as early as 3 a.m. Christmas morning to make sure the event was ready by noon.

“Every year it seems like it’s the first year,” Carroccio said. “Because we’re always so excited. We haven’t lost that juice.”

Husband and wife Ricardo and Diane Bimbela have been volunteering at the Christmas meal every day since the beginning.

“When we first started there was almost 10 volunteers,” Ricardo said. “And we had to scramble just to make the food and feed a lot of people.”

“We saw it when it was just kind of like a vision,” Diane said. “And they had an idea of what they wanted to do, wanted to accomplish. And now it’s just flourished. And it’s really good to see that.”

Organic Soup Kitchen is looking to expand its year-round kitchen space but plans to hold the Christmas Day meals at the Veterans Memorial Building moving forward.

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