It takes a village: Local churches feed residents for Christmas

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By Tony Wittkowski | City Reporter | The Times Herald

Lana Ginger didn’t want to be alone at Christmas, so she came to First Congregational Church in Port Huron.

“I just wanted to get out of the house and I didn’t want to be alone,” the Port Huron resident said. “I know they throw on the best Christmas meal in the whole city. I thank all these people. This is Christmas, and they are taking time away from their families to do this.”

She’s attended the meal the past two Christmases.

About 400 people came to First Congregational on Thursday to eat; volunteers delivered 308 meals.

The church has been doing the free Christmas meal for 29 years. Jeremy and Melinda Thompson have been involved for 15 years and now run the show.

“It’s unfortunate there are this many people in our community who are still hurting and suffering,” Melinda Thompson said. “But I think the fact that we are here is helping bring the community together.”

The church’s lunch area quickly filled with a line that fed into the neighboring hallway.

“I don’t know what all these people would do otherwise,” Jeremy Thompson said. “Frankly, I don’t know what we would do on Christmas. Our whole family is down here. This is Christmas for us.”

Back in the kitchen, volunteers and church members were busy at work. The Thompsons’ eldest children were volunteering their time on Christmas by preparing some of the food and packaging a portion of the delivery meals.

The dinners included turkey, vegetables, mashed potatoes and an assortment of pies. The food was donated by parishioners and local businesses.

Volunteers, who could be spotted by their name tags and warm smiles, would occasionally stand in line with a container to be filled and sent out for delivery.

All Saints Episcopal Church in Marysville also had a free community dinner.

The Rev. Tracie Little said there’s a big difference between the first meal nine years ago and now.

“Nine years ago we had a dream to provide a meal for people who had nowhere to go,” she said. “It’s grown ever since then. We put about 300 meals out, and this is our busiest and most hectic day of the year. But it is the one filled with the most joy.”

She said it was a blessing to be able to share dinner for the holidays because of the atmosphere it creates.

Behind the counter that separated the kitchen from the church’s hungry guests were Sydney and Chloe DiFranco.

The sisters, who are 13 and 10 years old, respectively, were in town visiting their grandmother for Christmas.

Having arrived Tuesday from Palm Beach, Florida, they made it an effort to volunteer while they were more than 1,300 miles away from home.

“It was just something we wanted to do,” Sydney said. “We’re here for six days, and decided to volunteer by serving food.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or twittkowsk@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 25, 2014)

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