Volunteers Give Meals for Christmas

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Volunteers handed out hot meals all over the Lansing area Wednesday to the less fortunate, those without power and those who would otherwise spend Christmas alone.

"No one should be home alone regardless of their economic background," said Mike Hudson of St. Gerard Parish, which provided close to 250 meals on Christmas Day. "Whether they're homeless or they live in a castle, if they're out there by themselves they should come in and eat and have a good family Christmas dinner."

St. Gerard's offered family-style meals to hundreds of people, many of whom were driven to the converted cafeteria by volunteers.

"We're spoiled; we get Christmas 364 days a year," Hudson said. "We've got a warm house, eat what we want, do what we want and a lot of folks can't do that. They don't even have a warm place to stay. And we only get to see them for a few hours but we get to make them feel comfortable, loved and go home with a full belly."

The Volunteers of America took hot meals to the homebound Wednesday, preparing approximately 400 meals before boxing them, bagging them and sending them on their way.

"We wanted to do something, and it helped different people and it was just something we felt was good to do," said Bill Sharp, who has been volunteering at VOA for more than 30 years.

The volunteering has become a Christmas Day tradition. Now, three generations of Sharps help when they're home.

"It feels right, it's a tradition and it's just one big community, one person helping another," said Tyler Sharp, Bill's grandson. "It's all about family and this way we're serving others while serving our family and that's what's important."

Serving dinner is a first at Calvary Lutheran Church in Delta Township. A member came up with the idea after seeing the effects of a winter storm that left tens of thousands without power, leaving little more than 48 hours to prepare the meal.

"I think if you're a Christian, one of the first duties you have is outreach to your community," said Phillip Brown. "This is an outreach to our community in Delta Township and beyond and we've had people from beyond Delta Township come here."

A caterer provided 400-meals-worth of food. The congregation gave its time to serve the meals buffet-style, decorate and accompany the meal.

"Some people have come up to me today with tears in my eyes and said, 'thank you so much, we didn't know what we were going to do. We've been eating crackers or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches since Saturday night and this is the first hot meal we've had,'" said Pastor Laura Gerstl. "I feel like everyone who was fed, it means a lot to them, so to me it's absolutely worth it and just seeing the smile on their faces and the sense of relief of them being able to have a warm meal and with their family just means so much."

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