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Serving up Christmas kindness

Echo Press photo by Al Edenloff Bob Dickinson of Alexandria, a volunteer at the First Congregational Church's free community Christmas dinner, served a plate of food Friday.

While the weather outside was frightful, the feeling inside the First Congregational Church in Alexandria on Christmas Day was delightful.

People were enjoying a meal of meatballs, ham, potatoes, corn, rolls, salad and a strawberry cheesecake dessert. They were also enjoying the fellowship of being with others on the special day.

The church hosted its 17th annual free community Christmas dinner and despite the steady snow that was stacking up outside, more than 200 people had already been served by 12:30 p.m., a half hour before the event was set to close.

Last year, 374 dinners were served.

The event is made possible through support of area businesses, other churches and members of the community. A free-will offering is taken and proceeds beyond the cost of the dinner is donated to the Douglas County Food Shelf.

It takes a lot of volunteers, planning and organizing to put together the event, according to Barb Michaelson, who started the event, along with her husband, Jim, 17 years ago.

It also takes a ton of food.

Volunteers served up 12 five-pound Hormel hams, 13 five-pound bags of meatballs, 10 big containers of dehydrated potatoes and tray after tray of cheesecakes.

Although the food was delicious, the dinner offers something more memorable.

"It's about fellowship more than anything," Michaelson said.