ALEDO, Ill. — The familiar smell of a Christmas meal was cooking at Messiah Lutheran Church in Aledo on Christmas morning.
"44 years we've been doing this, but this year is definitely different," said Kyle Koresko.
2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic forced the church to stir the pot of creativity, and slice up a new way to serve their community.
"But it was still important for us to try it because it's a smell and a taste of Christmas," Koresko said. "You know, some people are here every year and it's part of their Christmas tradition."
Koresko is leading the group. He took over for his aunt, who led the meal preparation until she died just over a year ago.
"To not offer it to the community was something we never even considered," Koresko said. "This is something that had to happen."
The same parts of the meal: the turkey, the stuffing, the potatoes and gravy were all now boxed up.
"This year, it's all deliveries or people coming to pick up the meals," Koresko said.
Now, the normally packed dining room on Christmas was instead packed with meals.
"This is definitely one of our bigger ones we've had, at least in my memory," Koresko said.
This change, a substitute for the lack of indoor dining, allowed for the tradition to continue.
"It's a little bit of stability in an unstable world," Koresko said.
This year, the dinner had even more demand, too.
"Typically a good year for us, numbers served here and deliveries is around 100 and this year we're hitting about 130," Koresko said.
Koresko attributes those extra meals to families who aren't together for the holidays this year. He said more families have ordered meals this year, specifically for this reason, so family members and relatives can still enjoy a hot, Christmas meal.
After preparing and packing the meals, the first delivery was set. The back of a volunteer's truck was packed, with more than 30 meals going to the Genesis hospital in town.
"If it brings a few smiles to a few people's faces this afternoon, then it's all worth it," Koresko said.
They delivered these meals, complete with a side of Christmas cheer.