About five years ago Hillsboro First Baptist Church member Juanita Kelley decided it would be nice to prepare a Christmas dinner for residents of the Highland County Homeless Shelter. It went over so well, and church members got such a good feeling from doing it, that they decided to turn it into a communitywide event.
The fifth annual Christmas Day Dinner “A Feast for a King” will be held on Christmas Day at the church located at 127 S. West St. in Hillsboro. Anyone is welcome to enjoy the meal in the church fellowship hall from noon to 2 p.m., they can pick up a meal and take it home, or they can have a meal delivered by calling 937-393-1473 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Meals will be delivered from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Christmas Day, Monday, Dec. 25.
It takes 40 to 50 volunteers – some who not members of the church but just want to help – to make the dinner happen.
“It’s just a group of people that want to serve,” Kelley previously told The Times-Gazette. “There was a 90-year-old lady last year that said, ‘You don’t know how much that meant to me.’ The people who delivered meals said it was a great blessing, and heartbreaking at the same time. We just thought it was something Hillsboro needed.”
Pat Sonner, co-chairman of the feast this year with Becky Marsh, said there was one local family that asked if they could help last year because they wanted to expose their children to serving others, even though they were not members of the church.
Sonner said church members feel the same way.
“The thought of someone being alone or hungry on Christmas just pulls at my heartstrings, and our family just feels it’s a way we can give back to the community,” said Patti Lengefeld, an administrative assistant at the church. “We have to juggle our schedules, but our family saw it as a neat opportunity … and it’s well worth doing.
“Our family has been on the receiving end of people being the hands and feet of Jesus, and that’s what we see this as being. Some people have offered to make a donation, but we say, ‘No, no, let us bless you with this Christmas gift of a meal.’”
Sonner, whose husband Glenn will carve 13 turkeys for the feast, said they have been involved since the dinner’s inception.
“It’s just – I don’t know how to describe it – you just have such a feeling of fellowship,” Pat Sonner said. “A lot of times it’s just people lonely on Christmas. We help provide them a service and maybe show them a little bit of Jesus.”
A year ago church members and volunteers served about 100 meals at the fellowship hall and delivered another 165. Marsh said the goal this year is to serve 400 meals.
“When it started our thought was that a lot of people on Christmas Day probably don’t have a dinner,” said Marsh, whose husband Bud delivers meals. “We found out that a lot of people on Christmas afternoon, whose children are maybe grown and have other places to be, don’t have a lot to do, so we decided we wanted this to be our mission, and that’s what we do.”
The menu this year includes turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans, rolls, cookies and beverages.
“Now I feel like I’m doing what God wants me to do,” Becky Marsh said. “We see how much people appreciate it, and we don’t feel like we’re giving up our Christmas day at all.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or [email protected]