Committee gears up for annual community Christmas feast.
The Lawrence Community Christmas Dinner Committee is already preparing its free traditional holiday dinner for all who wish to eat it. The chef from Free State Brewing Co. will do the cooking.
Anyone who "happens to be alone at Christmas should feel free to come," said Lani Oglesby, who has coordinated the Christmas dinner for six years.
Before Oglesby began organizing the event, the Flamingo Club offered the community dinner for several years.
"This was a tradition and I didn't want it to stop when the Flamingo Club stopped," Oglesby said.
Free State chef John Thompson, who has risen early every Christmas the past six to prepare the meal, will do the cooking at the Free State kitchen. The meal then will be taken to First United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 946 Vermont, to be served.
"I always found it interesting that the turkey's route was from the strip club (Flamingo) to the beer house (Free State Brewery) and on to the church," Thompson said.
"It's a beautiful location," Oglesby said of the fellowship hall. "And, they have been wonderful in providing a place to have it at no charge."
Thompson said he met Oglesby years ago when they worked with the Community Mercantile Co-op.
"She orders everything," he said. "I just come in and cook."
The cooking begins at 5 a.m. Christmas day. Thompson and an apprentice, Dave Nichols, will cook all the turkeys and hams. They will also prepare about 200 pounds of mashed potatoes and 10 gallons of gravy, Thompson said.
The turkeys, 38 of them, have been provided "by a mystery donor this year," Thompson said. "Lani won't tell me where they came from."
The eight to 10 hams needed for the meal will be donated by Hy-Vee, Oglesby said.
Thompson's wife, Corrie, transports the food from the brewery kitchen to the church.
Volunteers arrive at 6 a.m. at the church to begin the rest of the food preparation.
"People can call (the church at 842-5292) for transportation or delivery of meals from 6 a.m. on," said Oglesby. "Transportation to the dinner is provided with the vans from the senior center. Delivery of meals is done by volunteers."
"We never know how many people are coming or how many will volunteer," Oglesby said. "It's almost like a magic thing. It just comes together."
Last year 550 people were fed.
"This year, we hope to feed that many or more," Oglesby said.
The only thing the community dinner is still lacking is pies.
"We're asking people to bake us pies. We prefer homemade pies," said Oglesby. "Just bring pies to the meal site" on Christmas day.
-- Donna Bergmann's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.