Marques Cone, 9, is the quintessential picture of a regular kid. And a quick walk in his shoes might not reveal the drum roll moment his mom feels faced with bills she can't pay every month.
"These last few years have been a real struggle," mom Regina Broughton said. "It used to be that I was able to pay the bills and not have to worry about buying their clothes and getting haircuts. But now, I don't have a job. So things are tough."
She joined hundreds of others at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds, reaching out for a helping hand.
"You think you're going through bad situations, then you look at someone else and they're going through something worse," she said.
Four hundred volunteers direct men, women, and children to tables. Servers pass by with platters filled with plates of traditional Thanksgiving meals. And Regina slides out of her seat to give Marques' sister Ashley a spot to sit.
"I make sure my kids eat first," she said. "They always come first."
For Jay Martin of Metro Worship Ministry, this is just one event among many he and his church take part in. Each week they host a homeless outreach ministry, and 2012 marks the 15th year of the Feeding the Multitude feast for the public.
"Sometimes we'll get the question -- well how do you know they're really in need," he said.
As he pointed to the line stretching roughly a city block, he explained how.
"If they're willing to stand there, if they're willing to come up to you and say I'm hungry will you feed me...they're in need," Martin said.
Sometimes the needs are simple, like a sack of clothes for a house full of kids.
"That helps because my children grow so fast," Broughton said. "I buy them clothes and they grow out of them in a few months. Then I'm having to look for a way to afford some more. Donated clothes help out a lot."
A seat in the barber's chair.
"Sometimes I can't get their haircut," Broughton grimaced. "It's just one of the things you can do with out. Last year helped out a lot with that."
But there are simpler things that carry no cost, like knowing you aren't alone.
"Really meeting the people here and the prayer room help the most. You don't get enough prayer," Broughton said.
"People appreciate knowing that others care, they care that they are in need and we care about their need," Martin said. "We just want to help people. It's not a hard vision to have people commit to."
That is truly the motivation for Martin. The certainty that he and other volunteers are serving more than just a meal.
"It's really neat to watch the kids come in and everyone to feel love and appreciated," he said.
So in the end, families that have fallen on hard times can have their spirits lifted.
"Happy, joyful, some of the pressure is off of me," Broughton said at the end of the night. "You know, I don't like to show the struggle. I'd rather just feel blessed and pass the blessings along.
And every kid -- just like Marques -- leaves at least with a smile, tied to a string floating high above their heads.