GOSHEN — It’s a community event that has turned into a family tradition, where it’s less about the food and more about the fellowship that has blossomed over the last 14 years.
This is what members of the First Presbyterian Church of Goshen, as well as volunteers and guests, said about the annual Christmas Day Dinner Tuesday.
The church was prepared to serve more than 600 people this year, said Marcia Yost, who has been on the staff organizing the event for the last few years. The church opened its doors at 12:30 p.m. and started serving at 12:50 p.m., about 10 minutes earlier than scheduled because of the number of people who had already arrived.
The food they served Tuesday was what is typically seen at a Christmas meal: Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, dressing and pie for dessert. A band that has attended the Christmas Day for the last seven years performed Christmas songs. About about 100 or more volunteers walked around tables, carrying loaded plates. About 200 people volunteered in all, some serving around the tables, others driving out deliveries, cleaning and overseeing the carry-outs.
The event has evolved over the last few years from focusing on giving to families in need to inviting anyone to have a meal, even those who would just like some company on Christmas.
Yost said perhaps her favorite part about the event is seeing how appreciative people are during the event.
“People are genuinely pleased to be here and they have a good time,” she said. “And we all just appreciate the opportunity to provide this opportunity and at the same time just to be with each other.”
And the appreciation was seen around at different levels among guests and volunteers.
Rose Turner and Stewart Heath stopped at the church for a meal. This was their first year having a meal at the church for Christmas; they had been told about the event, and not being around family, they decided to go.
“It was wonderful,” said Turner. “We would’ve been sitting at our home alone. Instead we sat at a table with people who we didn’t even know and had a nice conversation with other people who, like us, have no one.”
At another table, Arthur and Julia Stauffer ate their meal as guests for the first time. In past years, they had volunteered during the event. As members of the church, they also volunteered at other events organized by the church.
“The church does try to reach to the community,” said Julia. “They always keep their doors open to anyone.”
Overseeing the event, David Pepple smiled and talked to guests, welcoming some and thanking others for stopping by.
He said being with others, preparing the food and creating a tradition were his favorite parts of the event. It’s something he looks forward to every year.
“It’s about celebrating the birth of our lord and mainly being with people, not having to be alone.”