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Community Christmas Dinner garners Touchstone Award

Dennis Anderson, Mike Swanson and Lynn Spilman, representing the Community Christmas Dinner, are recipients of the Touchstone Energy Community Award. (Submitted photo)

Itasca-Mantrap has named the Community Christmas Dinner as the winner of the local 2013 Touchstone Energy Community Award. In appreciation of its community service, the organization received an engraved plaque and a $500 check that they will donate to Helping Hands Through Century PTA and to the Hubbard County Food Shelf.

The Community Christmas Dinner is a free dinner on Christmas Day available to those that may not have one otherwise and also provides a gathering of fellowship for those that may be alone for the holiday. Home delivery service is also available to persons who cannot attend due to age, disability, illness or other need.

This event began 25 years ago with the Bob Kriss family. Lynn Spilman and Dennis Anderson have been longtime co-chairs of the event and have contributed countless hours of organization, training volunteers, shopping and preparing food, serving and delivering meals and clean-up.

Volunteers donate approximately 500 hours of their time and come from the immediate Park Rapids area as well as from Walker, Akeley, Nevis, Pequot Lakes and even out of state. Whole families, including children, will show up to volunteer. This event not only touches those that attend the dinner, but volunteers benefit from it as well.

The Community Christmas Dinner is held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 25 at the American Legion, that donates their facilities free of charge that day. The meal consists of a salad bar, turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, sweet potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce and a dinner roll. Desserts are apple and pumpkin pie.

In 2012, 500 guests attended the dinner and 200 home deliveries were made.

Donations are accepted to defray costs and to raise funds for the Park Rapids Salvation Army. As of 2012, nearly $58,000 has been raised for the Park Rapids Salvation Army from this event.

Spilman and Anderson give credit to the American Legion Post 212 and their families for all of their help donating time and money to make this event possible.

Itasca-Mantrap sought candidates during the month of October for the Touchstone Energy Community Award, which recognizes organizations for outstanding contributions to the local community.

“This area is blessed with many citizens and groups that are willing to donate time and effort to better our community,” said Itasca-Mantrap’s Member Services Manager Esther Simon. “We are pleased that, as a Minnesota Touchstone Energy cooperative, we have this opportunity to recognize those who impact our community in a positive way.”

The Community Christmas Dinner’s award application will be submitted for consideration in the statewide Minnesota Touchstone Energy Community Award. The statewide award recipient will be selected from local award winners from around Minnesota. The winning organization will receive $1,000 to go toward their community cause.