Community Christmas Dinner set to return in-person on Dec. 25 in Perry
The annual Community Christmas Dinner is set to return in-person after a take-out meal was served in 2020 because of COVID-19.
The free dinner will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 25 at the Perry Elks Lodge, 2823 Willis Ave.
While the dinner is returning to an in-person format, organizers said there will be precautions taken for the safety of the volunteers and patrons.
Deb Miller said the Community Christmas Dinner Committee is asking attendees to wear masks while going through the serving line and then again once they’ve finished eating and are leaving the building. Tables will also be spaced out further than in past years.
While attendees are encouraged to enjoy their meal, Miller said the committee would ask them to not linger as long as in the past so they can accommodate the others in line.
Miller added that they will also offer carryout and delivery options for those who don’t feel comfortable attending the dinner. Those interested in the carryout or delivery options should call Miller at 465-3740 or Larry Meacham at 360-4803 from Dec. 20-24 or the Elks Lodge at 465-3791 on Dec. 25.
Miller added that volunteers are still needed for the morning and afternoon shifts, though more are needed in the afternoon. The morning shift runs from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. while the afternoon is from 12-2:30 p.m. The committee is asking that volunteers are vaccinated against COVID-19. Those interested in volunteering should contact Miller at 465-3740.
The dinner menu includes ham, turkey, pork loin, potatoes and gravy, dressing, green bean casserole, rolls, salads and desserts. Miller said local businesses, including Fareway, Hy-Vee and Tyson, donate items for the main meal while organizations and churches make the salads and desserts.
Attendees also get to take home a goodie bag of cookies and candies. Community members who would like to donate cookies or candy for the goodie bags can drop them off at the Elks Lodge from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 24 or from 8-11 a.m. on Dec. 25.
Miller is looking forward to seeing the annual dinner return to an in-person format. In 2019, the dinner served around 400 people.
“The joy of it is serving the people and hearing the biggest thank-yous. They’ve even asked us ‘are you going to have a Thanksgiving Day dinner? ' and we said no, we have to put our foot down somewhere,” Miller said with a laugh. “The need is here, I mean it really is, when you serve 400 meals, that tells you that the need is here.”
The dinner itself is free, though Miller said they will have a jar for anyone looking to make a donation. All of the donations will stay in Perry and will go to the local food pantry.
“I think this year especially, prices are so high, here they can come for a free meal. And I feel like for the businesses, it’s their way of thanking the community,” Miller said of their donations. “We’re coming together as a community, thanking each other and appreciating each other. That’s what gives me the most joy.”