An assembly line of volunteers gathered at Music City Mall in Lewisville. Some worked by the smoker while others packed to-go containers. Volunteers also picked up the food and personally delivered the meals across the DFW area to first responders.

Through a program called Feed A Hero, 4,500 first responders working on Christmas Day had a warm meal dropped off this year.

Jim Searles founded Feed A Hero. In 2013, his family delivered a turkey to a Denton Fire Station. The year after, they decided to expand, helping 50 police and firefighters in 2014, 120 in 2015, 450 in 2016, and 1,520 first responders in 2017.

Searles was once a police officer and understands what it’s like to be away from family during the holidays. “I’m a previous first responder, so I did my time and ate my fair share of 7-Eleven hot dogs," he said.

Feed A Hero has 300 volunteers.

Amy and Rob Bertelson from Denton volunteered this Christmas for a second time. “We didn’t realize that paying it forward was going to be that soon,” Amy said.

After helping out last year, the couple returned home only to see the same firefighters a few hours later. The Downtown Mini Mall in Denton caught fire, and first responders saved there lives and their home. The Bertelsons realized that every department on scene were ones they labeled and boxed meals for just hours before. That’s why it’s personal to them that every first responder feels appreciated as they work hard on Christmas Day.

Next year, Feed A Hero plans to serve 7000 first responders. The goal is to make sure every hero in the DFW area gets a warm meal on Christmas.