Holiday dinner sets record — 474 servedVolunteers look at event as way to give back.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
Every Christmas, Annie Alexander remembers how lucky she is.
When she was 18 months old, Alexander suffered severe burns to her head from scalding water in a bathtub.
She required six surgeries, which took place over a span of more than a decade, and for a time she took monthly trips to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Cincinnati for treatment.
Without the Shrine Club, who sponsored Alexander, the cost of her treatment would have been overwhelming.
“There would have been nothing we could have done,” she said.
Alexander, now 32 years old and living in Viborg, returned to Mitchell this Christmas for the Mitchell Masonic Lodge and Corn Palace Shrine Club’s 13th annual Community Christmas Day Dinner.
The event, held at the Masonic Lodge in Mitchell, is organized and run by volunteers who offer a free meal and a place to socialize on Christmas Day for anyone and everyone who comes in the door.
Alexander has been a volunteer at the event for years. She said it’s a way for her to give back after being given so much.
“It humbles you and really helps put Christmas in perspective,” she said.
Alexander has been coming to the event ever since her aunt, Kori Clarambeau, of Letcher, told her about it. Clarambeau is also a longtime volunteer at the event.
“Christmas Day is a good day to remember how lucky you are,” Clarambeau said. “It’s our way of helping pay them back.”
For Alexander and Clarambeau, the dinner has quickly become a family tradition.
“It’s humbling to see,” Clarambeau said. “You realize some of these people have nowhere else to go.”
Troy Magnuson, co-chairman of the event, said although the dinner is a place for those with nowhere else to go, he stressed the event is open to all.
“It’s a place to go for fellowship,” he said. “It’s for everybody.”
This year, nearly 40 volunteers served plates piled high with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, dinner rolls and corn to 474 people at this year’s dinner, which set a record.
Cheers erupted in the dining hall when the total was announced to the volunteers, Magnuson said.
“I’m totally stoked,” he said. “I’m almost speechless and very gratified.”
Attendance at the event has continued to grow every year, Magnuson said.
“There is a need for it,” he said. “People love coming down here.”
Shorty Hofer, another co-chairman of the event, said first-timers are amazed at the food they receive.
“They just can’t believe the meal they’re getting,” he said.
Much of the food is donated locally, Magnuson said.
“It brings home the real meaning of Christmas,” he said.