HARLINGEN — Frances Garcia was up early helping feed the homeless on Christmas Eve.

Her day consisted of serving a good breakfast and then cooking a delicious Christmas Eve feast at Loaves and Fishes.

Garcia, 28, a Harlingen resident, couldn’t wait to put her reindeer horns over her hairnet to greet the many people who come through the doors for a meal on Christmas Eve.

But first she had to help whip up the Christmas Eve dinner.

She said she enjoys doing her job because she used to be homeless.

“It was not the life I wanted,” Garcia said. “It’s different being on the street.”

She said she was a young teen who had to learn the hard way until she could get on her feet.

After she received help from Loaves and Fishes she now has her own home, car and job.

“Working pays off and I love this job,” Garcia said. “Loaves and Fishes is very helpful for the community.”

When Garcia is not in the kitchen she is doing outreach to community members who are homeless.

She said she tries to help two to three people a week.

She does outreach three days a week with her supervisor Gracie Gutierrez, the weekend shelter manager.

She finds them in the library, underneath the expressway or anywhere they can stay warm, especially in this weather.

“Everybody needs a little happiness,” Gutierrez said.

And yesterday, with Frances’s help doing community outreach, more than 300 people were expected to attend the shelter’s annual Christmas Eve dinner.

Children who attended also received Christmas gifts.

For the dinner Garcia helped cook the ham and stirred up the mixed vegetables, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy.

“She is our little elf,” Pastor Bill Reagan said about Garcia’s passion for Christmas.

Reagan, executive director of Loaves and Fishes, said Garcia got the Christmas spirit cooking early at the shelter.

“It’s very important to feed all these people and have a place to go in town,” Gutierrez said. “She is a very hard worker. She does a lot for Loaves and Fishes working in the kitchen.”