LIMA — No one should spend the holidays alone. The simple mantra inspired a handful of volunteers to share a Christmas meal with the Lima community for nearly two decades.
The tradition drew more than 400 people to the Lima VFW Post 1275 on Wednesday, bringing together families who otherwise could not afford to celebrate Christmas and those whose loved ones are no longer around.
“We didn’t want anybody to be left out of the company of others on Christmas Day,” said Kyle Catlett, who has helped organize the free dinner since it was founded 17 years ago, alongside Kenny Miller and several others.
The atmosphere is festive one: Christmas music plays in the background as families wait in line, chatting and browsing through a buffet line of home-cooked turkey, mashed potatoes, collard greens and other popular holiday dishes, with plenty of dessert and space to meet new friends.
For the kids, there are presents. For the lonely, there is fellowship. For the hungry, a free buffet. And for the volunteers, a family tradition of service.
“It’s the most beautiful experience you ever, ever want to imagine, to see all these people happy,” said Vicki Adkins, who has volunteered for 17 years. “Some of them, they’re just lonely. They want the companionship.”
But there are other guests, Adkins said, who may go days without another hot meal.
“It breaks your heart to hear that,” Adkins said, “but if we can help for this day, then that’s what we’re going to do.”
Preparations start early.
In anticipation of several hundred guests, Catlett and a crew of about 25 volunteers met at the VFW early on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, spending hours in the kitchen. Then there are the decorations and table settings, and hours of cleanup once everyone has left.
But those long hours are worth it.
“There’s a need. We enjoy fulfilling that need,” Catlett said. “That’s what Jesus Christ asked us to do: Feed the hungry. As long as they’re hungry, we’ll come in and do it.”
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.