Churches Continue Christmas Tradition

by Mike Wagner, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- While the weather outside made it look a lot like Christmas, two Cedar Rapids churches worked to make it feel like the holidays for a few hundred people. St. Mark's and St. Paul's United Methodist Churches hosted simultaneous suppers on both sides of the river.

Together these two Christmas dinners fed more than 500 people. Most in the crowd come and eat in each church's basement as volunteer hit the streets and hand-deliver meals to shut-ins. The United Way's 211 line got the word out in the weeks before Christmas telling callers where free meals would be served over the holiday.

At St. Paul's United Methodist Church volunteers spent three days in the kitchen preparing the meal from scratch.

"We do 100 pounds of turkey, 100 pounds of ham, 100 pounds of potatoes and we peel our own potatoes fresh, so we don't buy those store-bought potatoes," kitchen leader Rosie McGowan said.

McGowan brought three of her granddaughters from Chicago to help serve food and to see what she does on Christmas day. All of them are already talking about coming back next year.

Their hard work doesn't go unnoticed.Wilma Shadle,86, used to volunteer here on Christmas day. Now she's one of the guests of honor.

"Just to be part of something and to meet people we can help.
I would otherwise be alone. And I don't like to be alone on Christmas," Shadle said.

Organizers say when each person leaves they're given a bag of groceries and a poinsettia. If they have children they also take home some toys.
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