"To see the kids smile," he said.

Catonsville High School student Antoine Wright said he was attending the event for the first time.

He said he came at the request of his 5-year-old niece, Lanisha Durant. After they enjoyed dinner, Lanisha sat on his lap and the two waited to hear the call for girls age 5 to come up and receive their gifts from Santa.

Margaret Stokes, an aide for 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk, said she appreciated the event's focus on feeding families and providing gifts for the children.

"Like" explorebaltimorecounty's Facebook page

"This is an awesome project the Winters Lane community hosts every year for the kids," she said. "It's all about the kids. Some of these kids, the only times they get something is for back to school and Christmas.

"It's uplifting because it shows people care," she said. "But it's sad because it's needed during these economic times."

Wanetta Morris and her extended family of 12, including eight under the age of 10, was among those who appreciated the food and gifts.

"I would be unable to afford gifts and things for the kids. This helps a lot," said the Catonsville resident.

Westview resident Aminah Dennis brought her seven children o Friday evening's event. Her six boys and one girl range in age from 3 to 14 and include two sets of twins.

"This definitely makes a difference," she said.

Dennis said she attended her first holiday party at the Banneker center last year.

"It was so exciting, it was almost like having two Christmases," she said of her 2011 experience. "There are so many children and every child walks away with a lot of gifts."

Liz Robinson was attending the event for the first time. The Catonsville resident came with her daughter and 18-month-old grand-daughter.

"This is really nice," she said.