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Central UMC hosts Community Christmas Dinner

Fourteen hams, 14 turkey breasts, dressing, sweet potato casserole, corn, green beans and other delights comprise the menu at this year’s Community Christmas Dinner.

Central United Methodist Church, 172 N. 2nd St., Albemarle, will host the 29th annual meal 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday.

Through the help of local churches and volunteers, the event continues to grow.

Last year, nearly 1,300 individuals were fed, according to Sybil Apsega, organizer of this year’s meal at Central.

“That’s a lot of food,” Apsega said.

Six downtown Albemarle churches take two-year hosting duties. Besides Central, First Baptist, First Presbyterian, First Lutheran, Annunciation Catholic and Christ Episcopal churches contribute to the cause, with many other churches, individuals and businesses donating either food, money or time.

“The (Albemarle) Sweet Shop is a god-send,” Apsega said. “I think Shawn (Oke) and everyone there came in with like 30-something pies fresh baked (last year). Whatever they want to do is fine with us for sure.”

Christ Episcopal began the tradition of the Community Christmas Dinner on a smaller scale. Now organizers begin planning the dinner in September and ramp up talks in October.

“Christmas is the time of year when folks get together to give and share — presents, attention, service, time and love,” said Rev. Earl Bradshaw of Central United Methodist Church. “But what does that look like when we are separated from our family by loss, by distance or other factors? The Community Christmas Dinner gives us the opportunity to share food, fellowship, service and the love of Jesus with others. It is a truly meaning time to love on our neighbor.”

Apsega said she is amazed at how many people volunteer for others as part of their Christmas.

“At the end of the day on Christmas Day we’re all very tired, but feel very good with what we’ve accomplished,” she said.

The meal is open to anyone, whether it be someone who would otherwise be alone on Christmas, individuals who do not have the means to provide a meal for their family or others who just want to share the day with neighbors and the greater community.

Central’s Youth Activity Center will offer takeout meals for individuals who normally receive Meals On Wheels, each church’s homebound and public service employees who are working on Christmas.

“With help from people in each of the churches and other people just showing up, somehow we get it all done and everybody fed,” Apsega said. “We look forward to continuing this wonderful tradition as we work hand in hand with many volunteers and local churches, loving, caring and sharing the true joy of Christmas.”

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