ALEDO, Ill. — The Messiah Lutheran Church made sure no one was without a meal on Christmas. Volunteers spent the day packaging and delivering food to people in the city.
It's the church's 45th annual Christmas dinner. In the past, community members were invited to the church to eat together, but for the second year, due to the pandemic, it was delivery and drive-through only.
"When the meal was originated, it was for people who didn't have a place to go on Christmas, and they were just by themselves," said organizer Kyle Koresko. "It was to give them a little bit of the tastes and smells of Christmas to make things a little bit brighter for them at the holiday. And as the years have gone on, it's expanded a little bit more."
This year, the church served a record number of meals: 141. Each box meal contained all the usual holiday fixings, including turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and pie, most of it made by members of the congregation.
"It's nice to know that we're filling a need, you know, if there wasn't something that people wanted, then we wouldn't have 141 requests, so it means something to them," Koresko said. "We're happy to do it. It's a long day, no doubt, and we're all tired by the time it's over, but it's a good kind of tired. There's a lot of work that goes into it, but I think we look forward to it each year as well."
Volunteering at the Christmas dinner has become a tradition for Koresko. He started coming with his dad when he was in high school nearly 30 years ago.
"I like the smells here in the kitchen," he said. "Every year I get here early in the morning to get started, and then those smells start coming back and takes me back to all the other Christmases we were here working and preparing everything, and a lot of good memories associated with that."
The planning begins months in advance, and people can sign up for the free meal around a month before Christmas.
"This year, we had a lot more people than anticipated sign up, so we had to scramble in the last couple days to get even more food to help cover the difference," Koresko said.
It's hard work that doesn't go unnoticed by the community. Many people picking up food said how much they appreciated the church doing this every year.
"There's thank yous and always smiles. That's nice," Koresko said. "That's just brightening their day a little bit, and that's what it's all about."