Dec. 20—Harvest Outreach Executive Director Shelia Reed said she's sad the group's annual community Christmas dinner on Friday won't be able to offer inside dining this year.
"We've always focused on our elderly and shut-ins and homeless who can't cook for themselves and may not have family to spend Christmas with," she said. "We not only provided them with a meal but a place to go and spend time with other people."
The Christmas dinner has traditionally also hosted gospel singing and Christmas carols by local groups.
Both Harvest Outreach and Providence Ministries will offer free Christmas meals — turkey and dressing and sides — this year for the community as each has done for many years. But due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, each will be serving meals to-go only. This will be the second year in a row that neither group has had indoor dining.
Harvest Outreach will be serving plates Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at American Legion Post 112, 1118 N. Glenwood Ave. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, no one will be admitted inside the building and only to-go plates will be served.
"We served about 550 plates on Thanksgiving (when the group also provides a free meal)," Reed said. "I don't know how many we will serve for Christmas, but I expect it will be at least as many."
Reed said Harvest Outreach has been providing Christmas dinners to the community for 35 years.
Providence Ministries provides its dinner Saturday, Christmas Day, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only to-go plates will be served. Volunteers are needed. Providence Ministries is at 711 S. Hamilton St.
"It will be basically drive-thru," said Providence Ministries founder and President Roy Johnson. "People will drive up and say how many plates they need and volunteers will bring them out."
Providence Ministries has been providing free Christmas dinners for more than 30 years. In the past, Providence Ministries' Christmas dinner has also provided toys for the children attending the event. Volunteers accompanied children ages 12 and younger through a "store" set up at the ministry's headquarters as they chose three brand new toys and a stuffed animal that had been donated by the community or bought with donated money.
"It's too bad we won't be able to do that this year," said Johnson. "I hope that with the local economy being so strong and unemployment being low there's not as much need for the toys this year. Maybe we can get back to doing that in the future."
Both events rely on numerous volunteers to run smoothly, and both groups say anyone who wants to help out is welcome.
"I'd say volunteers need to get here about 9:30 a.m. or 10 a.m.," said Johnson.