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Hundreds of diners came out for the annual Community Christmas Dinner last year. Even more diners are expected this year. (Enterprise photo)

Annual Community Christmas Dinner expected to be busier

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Volunteers are still needed for the annual Park Rapids Community Christmas Dinner.

"We're planning for some extra guests this year," said organizer Lynn Spilman.

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With the struggling economy, Spilman thinks the Christmas Dinner will be especially well attended this year. The meal is free but donations are accepted. Any profits above the cost of the food go to the Salvation Army.

A buffet dinner of turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, dressing, corn, mashed potatoes with gravy, salads, dinner rolls and pumpkin or apple pie are served. And each person gets a bag of candy.

The annual Christmas meal has grown since it started 21 years ago at the Great Northern Café. It is now held at the Park Rapids American Legion.

New this year, meals will be delivered to Nevis, Akeley and Menahga along with Park Rapids.

"Someone has graciously stepped up this year," said Denny Anderson, another organizer with the event.

Spilman and Anderson have volunteered for years and it has become a Christmas tradition for them. To put on the meal it takes 75 or more people to volunteer.

"Some people work each day, some just come for a few hours," Spilman said.

Volunteer work begins Wednesday, Dec. 23 with some of the setup and preparing salads. The Marine Corps. League bags up candy and the Sons of the American Legion set up the tables.

Christmas Eve, most of the food is prepared so that by Christmas Day all that is required is serving the food and busing the tables.

In past years, about 20 turkeys and 10 hams were cooked the night before the dinner. This year, a few more turkeys have been ordered in case more people show up, Anderson said.

They emphasize that no one will go hungry.

"We'll find a way to feed anyone who wants to eat," Spilman said.

For some, the Community Christmas Dinner is about spending time with others and socializing on Christmas Day. For some, the dinner has become a family tradition.

The meal is served at the Legion from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Christmas Day. Deliveries and takeout orders are available. Deliveries start at 10 a.m. Call 732-5238 to set up a delivery.

For those who would like to volunteer, any amount of time is appreciated.

"Don't worry, we can find something for them to do," Anderson said.

Spilman encourages families to come together to volunteer.

"Explain why you're doing this to the kids and show them what good they're doing," she said.

To volunteer, call Spilman at 732-8250.

"It's rewarding," she said. "We're tired when we're done but we feel good."

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