Community Christmas Dinner feeds many
Plummeting temperatures didn't prevent hardy Minnesotans from attending the 29th annual Community Christmas Dinner.
"At 10 a.m., they were lined up to no end," said Ambrose Blaeser, who, along with Leslie Showalter, greets guests at the door.
The holiday feast's moto is "no one should spend Christmas Day hungry or alone." They typically serve 450 guests at the Park Rapids American Legion and deliver 300 hot meals.
This year, there definitely was an uptick in requests for home deliveries.
"We're well over 400," said Sara Gallus as she and her mom, Jean Anderson, packaged yet another dozen hot meals for the homebound.
Volunteers delivered meals to Menahga, Osage, Laporte, Park Rapids, Nevis and Akeley, according to Gallus.
She and her sister, Lori Cannon, will officially take over the Community Christmas Dinner next year. Longtime co-organizers Lynn Spilman and Dennis Anderson are set to "retire."
Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, corn, sweet potatoes, salad, dinner roll and all the fixings were dished up. Freewill offerings pay for the grocery bill. Any proceeds above and beyond the cost of the dinner are donated to nonprofits in the Park Rapids area.
Helpers of all ages assisted with serving, bussing tables, deliveries and clean up.
Olivia Miller, 10, and her cousin, Hunter Simon, 8 distributed pumpkin pie with a smile.
"We turned it into a new tradition. We've been doing this three years," Miller said. "I'm excited every year to do this."
"It's just the whole community coming together," said Lila Kalish. She and husband Ken relish the camaraderie and delicious food. Lila is especially grateful that the gravy is gluten-free.
"That's very thoughtful," she said.