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First responders, disaster relief teams spend Christmas serving neighbors in need

Many out there are spending Christmas apart from their families and chose to give back, instead.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Portsmouth-based nonprofit Mercy Chefs continue to assist tornado-stricken Kentucky, one meal at a time. 

"It's been very warm, very embracing, very heartbreaking as well," said Bill Bunce, the director of strategic relationships. "It's bittersweet, but there are some wonderful, wonderful people here. They rally around themselves down here, in a unique and amazing way."

Teams with the faith-based charity arrived in the Mayfield, Kentucky, area two weeks ago.

"The devastation in the path is complete," said Managing Chef Jon White. "The effort for cleanup and recovery is going to take months to years."

Folks with Mercy Chefs told 13News Now that they are serving well through the holiday and at least until summer. 

“It’s been quite impressive to see how on Christmas Eve and Christmas, we’ve had way over 100 volunteers show up," said Volunteer Coordinator Janette Alvarez. "We can celebrate our Christmas along with our family members any other time. But they need us here now and so, therefore, we answered the call and volunteered to be here to serve those that need us most."

Local first responders are also answering calls and serving others. 

Members of the Chesapeake Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad in Virginia Beach stayed busy on Christmas Day.

"We choose to be here today," said EMT Tanya Barnes, who explained that the rescue squad is completely volunteer-based.

Advanced EMT Hunter Morrison said it all works out, since his family members live out of town.

"I choose to volunteer on the... usually on most of the holidays, so that somebody local can spend time with their family," said Morrison. 

And Barnes told 13News Now why she's happy to work, even on the Christmas holiday. 

"I decided to come out and serve my community, make a difference," she said. 

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