St. Matthew Lutheran Church feeds hundreds
When TanoueOnishi Sweeney lost her brother on Nov. 28, she also lost much of her holiday spirit.
In fact, she didn't want to do anything for Christmas. It was too difficult for her to think about, with her brother's death so recent. She felt a little depressed and lonely.
But when Sweeney's co-worker told her about a Christmas dinner that was happening on Christmas Day at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, 839 W. Market St., she decided to come out and volunteer. She and her nephew, 25-year-old Charles Carter, sat down to eat their Christmas meal while waiting for their volunteer shift to start.
"I feel better being here," Sweeney said, looking around.
The Christmas dinner at St. Matthew Lutheran Church is open to anyone in the public, whether they're hungry and need a meal or are just lonely and need to be in the company of others, said Kevin Herman, the organizer of the event and a member of the church.
Herman started the Christmas dinner nine years ago after he volunteered at another church that did a Thanksgiving dinner for the public. He enjoyed it so much he couldn't sleep that night.
Herman called his church and asked if they could do something similar for Christmas.
They pulled together a quick dinner in just four weeks and ultimately served approximately 150 people.
This Christmas, Herman estimated they would serve more than 1,000 people in three hours, including meals for volunteers such as Sweeney.
Cooks started working in the church's kitchen at 7 a.m. Sunday. More than 120 volunteers work on the Christmas dinner throughout the day, and everyone who sits down for a meal is served by the volunteers.
In addition to the meals, there were tables filled with donated clothes, hats and scarves for those who needed them. "Elves" took children to a room filled with toys for them to choose from.
It's a long day, and at times it's stressful, but Herman said it's worth it. Even his 15-year-old daughter was helping, and she has done so every year.
"Having people thank you, that makes the whole day," Herman said.