St. Paul's Christmas dinner in Cedar Rapids captures holiday spirit

Church has been serving up Christmas dinner every year since the late 1980s

Published: December 25 2013 | 5:30 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 1:17 am in
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The smell of turkey and the sound of Christmas music filled the air at St. Paul's United Methodist Church on Christmas Day as volunteers prepared to feed more than 250 people.

The church, 1340 Third Ave. SE, has cooked and served Christmas dinner every year since the late 1980s, said Jim Milden, chairman of the committee in charge of the event.

Milden, who has volunteered since the dinner's first year, said the event feeds many in the surrounding neighborhood, the church's African National Ministries and the elderly. It also delivers meals to home-bound individuals.

More than 75 volunteers spent two days cooking a traditional Christmas dinner, including turkey, ham, dressing, corn, green bean casserole, rolls and mashed potatoes — that were made after volunteers peeled more than 125 pounds of potatoes. Cake, pecan and pumpkin pies, and cookies lined long tables.

If it weren't for the dinner "I'd be home alone," said Wilma Shadle, 87, who used to volunteer herself.

"I enjoy meeting new people and seeing people in a different light," she said. "How many churches are there where you can see the senior pastor setting up chairs in the hall?"

Shar Petersen said she's been a member of the church since 1966 but the death of her husband this March is what nudged her to volunteer for the first time. Petersen added that her grown daughter's family was also helping out, delivering meals, flowers and gifts.

"My Kansas City family won't be here until Saturday... so it would have been a quiet Christmas," she said.

All attendees also received a bag of groceries and a poinsettia, and children took home toys. Local Hy-Vee and Fareway grocery stores donated the food and groceries, while a slew of florists donated the poinsettias, Milden said.

"We're providing for a need in the community," he said. "We're providing fellowship and nourishment. This is the Christmas spirit."

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