The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

December 24, 2012

St. Paul’s Christmas Dinner celebrates 30-year tradition

By Samantha Pidde
Herald Staff Writer

CLINTON — For the 30th year, people with no one to go to on Christmas can have a free meal at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 715 S. Third St.

“Nobody has to be alone,” Roberta Gee, who manages the dining room during the dinner, said.

Church Councilman Keith Oldaker started the dinner 30 years ago. Roberta Jurgersen said Oldaker convinced Ruth Schmidt to do the cooking, which she continued for several years.

“The mission was for folks that didn’t have another place to go Christmas Day,” Pastor Elizabeth Liggett said.

The dinner runs from noon to 2 p.m. in the church’s downstairs room and includes a variety of food items for no charge. The church has an elevator and is handicap accessible. John Obermiller, who cooks for the event, said they typically serve 150 people at the dinner and 65 take out orders.

People who are unable to get to the church by themselves can call 242-4102 to have a meal delivered or see about a ride to the event. People are asked to call as soon as they can. Volunteers agree that they are happy to bring Christmas dinners to those who can not come.

“You deliver a meal to someone who may be otherwise alone, and it’s greatly appreciated,” Liggett said. “It’s a good thing.”

Throughout the years, many volunteers have helped with the dinner. Ashley Fuegen is volunteering at the dinner for the first time this year. She has two small children and wanted to show them the importance of giving back to the community and helping others.

John and Ellyne Obermiller have been volunteering at the dinner for five years. Right before they came to the church, the member who had been working on the dinner for years decided he would not do it any more. John had cooked for big dinners before and decided to help out.

“It feels good to give back and to give to those in need,” John Obermiller said.

Liggett enjoys working at the dinner. She said as a pastor, she often would spend Christmas at her church anyway. When she learned about the dinner when interviewing for the job, she was excited.

“When I interviewed and heard about this I thought, ‘As long as I’m there I’ll never have to worry about where I’ll be at Christmas,” Liggett said.

Liggett also remembers how volunteering to help others can affect a person. She remembers a few years ago when a man from the Quad-City area came to the church’s Christmas Eve service. He was passing through the area and was having a bad year. She told him about the dinner and he asked if anyone could come.

“And I said, ‘Yeah you could come. But you might enjoy working it even more than coming,’” Liggett said.

He came back to the church the next day and worked from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Somewhere she still has a picture of him smiling as he served others.

“By including him on   Christmas, we served him, by including him and having him be a server,” Liggett said.

She has never saw him again. Liggett hopes things turned around for him, though she will probably never know.

“But we were helpful one bad Christmas.”

Anyone interested in volunteering at the dinner can show up at the church anytime after 10 a.m. People are also welcome to bring any pies, cakes or salads.

“No volunteer will ever be turned away,” Jurgersen said.