By GAYLE WEBER

gweber@dailynews.net

Briana and Alex Aldrich gave up one of their favorite Thanksgiving traditions Thursday in favor of becoming volunteers.

Their grandfather recorded the last part of the Thanksgiving parade on TV so that they could help serve the Ellis County Ministerial Alliance's free Thanksgiving meal.

"I asked them if they wanted to because I wasn't sure if it was something they were interested in," mother Sandy Aldrich said. "They knew I had done it last year and I told them how much I liked it and I think that piqued their interest."

Briana, 10, and Alex, 6, helped dish out food and refill drinks throughout the meal, as did many other Hays children.

Twelve-year-old Jason Kuhn didn't mind giving up his Thanksgiving in order to refill drinks during the ECMA meal.

"It's helping other people," Kuhn said. "Normally, our Thanksgiving is at night during supper anyway."

Most of the families volunteering Thursday had another meal of turkey and stuffing waiting for them at home after their day at the National Guard Armory was done. But first, a traditional meal of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce had to be served to nearly 400 people including volunteers.

"I felt like it would be something important to involve the kids in and support the community," Jennifer Wagner said.

Wagner's children, Zachary, 9, and Lauren, 5, helped serve turkey, stuffing, cake and pie during their first time volunteering for the event.

Both children agreed that their day was probably better spent helping at the ECMA meal than at home eating their own dinner.

"I think it's better because you get to help people," Lauren Wagner said.

Tom and Mary Jacobs brought their two children, Rachel and Carson, out to help on Thursday as well.

"We have two older kids in Denver who weren't able to make it back, so we thought this would be a good way to spend the holiday," Tom Jacobs said.

Carson Jacobs, 7, spent most of the day handing out silverware to everyone in line.

"I like to work," Carson Jacobs said.

Mary Jacobs said her family would be getting together with friends that night to celebrate, but enjoyed being able to help out others who didn't have anywhere to go on Thanksgiving Day.

"Their faces just gleam when they go through the line," Mary Jacobs said.

More than 75 volunteers served the meal catered by The Bakery Shop.

About 65 volunteers gathered Wednesday night to help with preparations, according to ECMA President Kyle Ermoian. They set up tables, decorated them, made candy turkeys for children and assembled 240 bags of non-perishable food items. Celebration Community Church conducted a food drive Saturday that accounted for the groceries each person who ate at the meal was encouraged to take home.