Some diners had nowhere else to have a traditional dinner, while others planned to be with family or friends at the annual community dinner at the First United Methodist Church.
Hundreds came together at the First United Methodist Church to share a traditional holiday dinner despite structural ceiling problems that closed the church sanctuary Monday.
While standing in line to fill their plates Christmas Day, holiday dinner guests didn't seem to notice the cloth draped over the temporary raised pulpit set up in Fellowship Hall, 946 Vt.
"It all works out," said Missy Black, a longtime volunteer and member of the church. "This is the smoothest it has run as far as I remember. All of these people volunteer food, money and time to the event. They do all the planning and everything for this wonderful celebration."
"There were some glitches," said Lani Oglesby, coordinator for the sixth annual community dinner that is open and free to all. "But, the glitches all worked out easily."
The church donates the use of the hall to the community for the holiday dinner each year. This year, however, the hall had to be set up as a temporary sanctuary for holiday church services after a structural engineer advised church trustees of some ceiling problems in the main sanctuary.
Chairs used for church services Christmas Eve were removed and tables were moved in to accommodate the hundreds who came for turkey and dressing with all the trimmings. After clean-up, the tables were removed and the chairs moved back in for regular church services today.
Hilary Brown, a first-year volunteer, had very large Sure Gard rubber gloves on her tiny hands to protect them from the heat as she tore the legs and meat off a steaming hot turkey.
"She's small but mean," said Richard Njorode, a three-year veteran of the dinner, referring to the 5-foot-tall Brown.
Njorode teased Brown about the time she was taking to pull all the juicy meat from the turkey bones.
"Just being good to the turkey," said Brown. "It's going to be good to us."
Season for sharing
The festive atmosphere was enhanced with background piano music and holiday songs from several men and women.
This was the fourth year Harold and Mary Conner, a husband and wife country music duo, have shared their musical talent with guests and volunteers. Mary sings Christmas and church tunes with a western flair while playing guitar. Harold plays the bass.
This day of volunteering has become a four-year holiday tradition for Brad Leitch and his mother, Alice Leitch. "I spend the day with Mom and this is what we do," said Brad, a Kansas City commercial litigation trial lawyer. "Mom runs the day-care center here at the church. We like helping the community and it gives us something to do together each year."
First-year volunteer Karin Feltman, an emergency-room nurse at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, and her mom, Sonia Stofkooper, said they would like to make this a family tradition. "You get to see and share the holiday with people you normally wouldn't."
At 11:30 a.m. Faye Rogers had three food-filled plates in front of her and said she would be there "until 4 o'clock eating it all." She and her card-playing friend Alice Woodsum had planned to attend the community dinner together this year.
New friends Peggy Rainwater and Jean Umholtz joined Rogers and Woodsum at a large round table and shared stories of their favorite memories of the last year. Rainwater and Umholtz live in Vermont Towers.
Volunteers Mary and Brower Burchill started preparing on Friday by driving around picking up and delivering all the items needed to provide the dinner to hundreds.
They picked up boxes to carry food for deliveries and paper products donated by Paper Warehouse. The next stop was Lawrence Memorial Hospital for the steam table and lots of chafing dishes. Then to Checkers to pick up all the requested food items and Sunrise Garden Center for poinsettias.
Mary Burchill handled the 200 home delivery requests. "Poinsettias are delivered with each meal," said Burchill. "Those who come to dinner can also take a poinsettia from the hallway."
Burchill didn't have to worry about ordering too many. "All the leftovers will go to local charities," she said.
-- Donna Bergmann's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.