The meal is free and anyone is welcome to come. “Some come out of need and some come to avoid eating alone,” says Pastor Tammy Swanson-Draheim.
“Everyone who comes gets treated with grace-filled service that includes being greeted at the door, ushered to their seats, waited on, and friendly conversation for those who enjoy interaction,” says Swanson-Draheim. Centerpieces decorated the tables covered with linens and guests were treated to live piano music.
Churches take turns hosting the Community Christmas Dinner – volunteers from other congregations helped the many members of First Covenant who donated their time.
Nearly 80 volunteers helped put on this year’s dinner. “We had so many people volunteer that we had to put some volunteers on waiting lists,” says Swanson-Draheim. “I think it is a wonderful witness when individual churches can lay aside differences and enjoy working together to meet community needs.”
The pastor adds, “The presence of such a warm spirit of generosity makes it difficult to distinguish who is having a more enjoyable time – the servers or the served.”
Volunteers spent several days preparing the food. The menu consisted of ham, green beans, scalloped potatoes, Jello salad, dinner rolls and a choice of apple or pumpkin pie.
Some volunteers provided transportation, driving people who had no vehicles or were afraid to drive on the slushy roads.
This is the second time the church has hosted since 2006 because the congregation loves the opportunity, Swason-Draheim says. “The experience has been such a meaningful way to show God’s love to residents from all walks of life that two years ago First Covenant began an annual Thanksgiving Dinner for the community.”
Skill and the desire to serve combine to make the dinners a wonderful outreach. “First Covenant is blessed with a variety of individuals who can produce meals for large events with professionalism and grace,” Swanson-Draheim says. “The people love to use their gifts to generously serve the community, so we are never short of volunteers.”
Swanson-Draheim adds, “My dream for First Covenant is that should we cease to exist, the people of this community would miss us terribly.”