Given the choice of a traditional dinner for Christmas Eve or having volunteers bring in McDonald's hamburgers and fries, youth offenders at the Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility chose burgers for tonight's meal.

Given the choice of a traditional dinner for Christmas Eve or having volunteers bring in McDonald's hamburgers and fries, youth offenders at the Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility chose burgers for tonight's meal.

It's a decision the 12- to 24-year-old offenders at the 100-bed Grants Pass facility have faced each Christmas Eve since the center opened in 1997.

River Valley Community Church and Edgewater Christian Fellowship raise money for project, and McDonald's brings in extra staff to fill the big order and gives the volunteers a discount on burgers and fries.

"The support we get from our volunteers is just incredible," said acting correctional facility program director Noel Hoback in a press release. "There's a core group of people who have dedicated large portions of their lives to coming in and being here for the youth."

"I've heard spontaneous applause when we walk onto the unit and bring them these burgers and fries," says volunteer Gary Russell of Grants Pass.

"A lot of these youth have never been given Christmas presents," Hoback says. "Many of them don't have families, a lot of them have grown up in foster care after being taken away from parents at early ages."

Hoback says the volunteers recognize most youth offenders eventually return to the community, "and it's important they know there are people in the community who care about them."

— Sanne Specht