The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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December 25, 2013

Organizations, churches serve the poor, lonely, generous, thankful

JOPLIN, Mo. — Nothing rings in the Christmas holiday like sitting down with the family to a fresh, home-cooked meal.

While it may take the better part of a day to cook dinner for a family of four, imagine making Christmas dinner with all the trimmings for 800 hungry people.

Members of the First Community Church, 2007 E. 15th St. in Joplin, did just that Wednesday as they put on their annual Christmas Day dinner for the 39th time. Jim Everitt, a church elder, said taking part in preparing meals for the community has become a family tradition for him and his wife.

“We know some people don’t have a place to go in the community, and we want to show them that they have friends they can go to,” Everitt said. “We have been cooking here for the past week, and today we diligently put everything together so that people in our area have a place to go on Christmas Day.”

Preparation takes place in the church’s industrial kitchen, which was packed at 6 a.m. Wednesday with volunteers preparing more than 200 pounds of turkey and ham alone. On a nearby stage, volunteers put together delivery orders that would find their way into local homes via volunteer drivers. Everitt said the 50 volunteers prepared 800 meals Wednesday, with 300 of those being delivered.

“We advertised the event, and we took calls up until yesterday with orders for what people wanted,” he said. “The church has been doing this for almost four decades, and it has grown to be as big as we can handle it. We will run out of food today. It is just a matter of time.”

Joplin resident Floyd Wallander attended the Christmas dinner for the second year in a row with his wife and daughter. He said the dinner reminded him of family dinners when he was younger.

“We’re sitting here with people that we didn’t know until we started eating together a few minutes ago,” Wallander said. “But that is what the great thing about a Christmas dinner is. You get to share your time together. That is a special holiday treat that you just don’t get anymore.”

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