240 served at Christmas Day Community Banquet

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A free Community Christmas Banquet was served to 240 Wilson residents on Christmas Day.

First Christian Church of Wilson hosted the meal; First United Methodist Church and St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church co-sponsored the event by sharing in the distribution of gifts and meal preparation.

In its 11th year, this event is organized annually to provide a holiday meal to those who might otherwise go without dinner on Christmas Day. This year’s attendance, more than 30 percent higher than previous years, marked the largest number of people served since the event started in 2007.

One of the guests, Van Taylor, said he was there because “it was nested in a godly place.”

“Upon arrival the line was long, yet cheerful,” he said. “The pastor shook our hands as we entered and the Christmas spirit was spread throughout the dwelling place.”

First Christian Church prepared most of the meal of smoked Boston butt, green beans, fruit salad, cranberry sauce, fresh fruit, candy, rolls, beverages and dessert; St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church added baked potatoes. More than 60 volunteers from the three churches and the community at-large helped serve this year’s meal.

Leslie Kendall, a member of First Christian Church, has coordinated the event since 2013. She and her husband, Bob, began to volunteer the first year they found themselves alone, without parents or children able to join them in their own home for a Christmas Day meal.

“We were so moved from the experience of serving our guests and sharing the day with volunteers from throughout the community, it has now become a regular part of our Christmas celebration,” Kendall said.

Several of their children and grandchildren now volunteer with them.

In addition to the meal, First Methodist Church provides gifts of blankets, gloves and toboggan caps.

“This event provides our church the opportunity to give back to the community and to help those in need,” said Sandy Clark, who chairs First Methodist’s local missions and outreach team. “It provides a way to really make a difference in these peoples’ lives.”

In reflecting upon the record-setting attendance at this year’s event, Kendall added, “When you plan an event, year after year since 2007, the natural expectation is that the event will grow. It’s just counterintuitive to invest so much time and effort and wish for less. Yet, wouldn’t it be wonderful to say the number of people who are hungry on Christmas Day has diminished? But it hasn’t. While we are glad to be able to spread a bountiful table each Christmas, maybe someday we’ll work just as hard getting ready, and very few will show up hungry. Less would be a great joy!”

The Rev. Gary Walling, senior minister at First Christian Church, summed up the celebration by saying: “We were grateful that we could provide a wonderful Christmas dinner for those who were hungry or who simply wanted to share Christmas Day with others in the community. We believe that the most faithful way to observe the birth of Jesus is to honor his request serve one another. When we offer food to those who are hungry we are, indeed, offering a gift to the Christ Child.”