Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

All about caring & community at the church basement Christmas dinner December 17, 2012

We hung up our coats and headed to that doorway into the basement dining room.

Guests hung up their coats before heading for the dining room.

WE SHRUGGED OFF our winter coats, my husband and I, and secured them onto hooks before following the tantalizing aroma of turkey and meatballs into the church basement dining area.

My meal, minus the cranberries, bread and cake which were also served.

My meal, minus the cranberries, bread and cake which were also served.

I grabbed a plate and the volunteers passed it down the line, spooning on mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, turkey and two Swedish meatballs.

Then I heard the clatter, the sound of a cane falling upon tile and saw the elderly man directly behind me lying face down, motionless, on the floor between the serving line and the table for take-outs.

Volunteers expected to serve around 225 diners at the free Community Christmas Dinner. A free will offering could be given.

Volunteers expected to serve around 225 diners at the free Community Christmas Dinner. A free will offering could be given.

“Call 911,” I ordered my husband. I knew, given my hearing loss, that I wouldn’t be able to hear above the drone of conversation filling the basement at the Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church Community Christmas Dinner.

A sampling of the volunteer crew it takes to put on the Christmas dinner.

A sampling of the volunteer crew it takes to put on the Christmas dinner.

At some point, a server took the plate from my hand. “Give it to someone else,” I said.

“Is there a nurse here?” I asked as a cluster gathered around the fallen man. I mostly wanted someone to be with him, down there on the floor, comforting him until the paramedics arrived. And there was and that relieved me although I was still very much worried.

I felt helpless standing there, camera bag slung over one shoulder, camera on the other. I couldn’t simply take back my plate, sit down like nothing had happened and enjoy my Christmas meal.

Eventually, the man was eased off the floor and onto a chair and I sought out my husband who stood outside the glass doors in the bitter cold talking on the phone with the emergency dispatcher. I relayed that the man was now sitting and alert. And I wondered why the rescue squad had not yet arrived from two blocks away, knowing full well from personal experience that time seems to stand still when you are in need of emergency services.

And so the story ended. No broken bones. No heart attack. Not even shattered eyeglasses as the unsteady aged man tripped on a table leg and plunged forward, his fall broken only by the shoe of the woman scooping mashed potatoes at the beginning of the serving line.

If not for that shoe, he would have smashed face first onto the tile.

It seemed a Christmas miracle.

And so I stepped back into the serving line, the crew filling my plate for the second time. I pondered how grateful I am to live in a community where volunteers cook and serve savory meals in church basements and, when in a time of need, are there to comfort and assist.

Friends gave friends rides to and from the church dinner.

Friends gave friends rides to and from the church dinner.

The beautiful Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church in Faribault. I'll take you inside the sanctuary in a follow-up post.

The beautiful Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church in Faribault. I’ll take you inside the sanctuary in a follow-up post.

Coffee maker Dan Tersteeg mans the coffee corner. The coffee makers always use Folgers coffee, he says, because it works best with Faribault's water.

Coffee maker Dan Tersteeg mans the coffee corner. The coffee makers always use Folgers, he says, because it works best with Faribault’s water.

I noticed this full coffee cup setting on a cupboard lined with holiday decorations. During the congregation's Lenten soup luncheons, desserts fill the shelves.

I noticed this full coffee cup sitting on a cupboard lined with holiday decorations. During the congregation’s Lenten soup luncheons, desserts fill the shelves.

Inside a room labeled "Fourth Avenue Room," where women were slicing Christmas cake, among other tasks, I found this sign posted.

Inside a room labeled “Fourth Avenue Room,” where women were slicing Christmas cake, among other tasks, I found this humorous sign posted.

And then these directions, too, posted, perhaps, by the boss?

And then these directions, too, posted, perhaps, by the boss?

In the kitchen, a team of workers tended the food and washed the dishes, etc.

In the kitchen, a team of workers tended the food and washed the dishes, etc.

And another worker handed out Christmas cake.

Another worker handed out slices of festive and delicious Christmas cake.

Diners enjoyed each other's company and observed the goings-on.

Diners enjoyed each other’s company and observed the goings-on.

Some of the guests took home gifts of poinsettias which served as table centerpieces.

Some of the guests took home gifts of poinsettias which served as table centerpieces.

A street-side sign welcomes diners to the free Community Christmas dinner.

A street-side sign welcomes diners to the free Community Christmas dinner.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

19 Responses to “All about caring & community at the church basement Christmas dinner”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    What a wonderful tradition!!!! So glad the gentleman was okay. Whew. The meal looks yummy!!! I wish I had a plate of it right now!!! 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      This particular congregation is known for the excellent food they prepare, especially the soups at their Lenten luncheons.

      And, yes, I was so thankful the gentleman was OK.

  2. Glad the man wasn’t seriously hurt. So scary when older people fall. The food does look wonderful. What a nice event.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, it was quite frightening when he fell, especially when he was not moving at all, nor saying anything. My mother fell several months ago outside the post office and I expect that was equally as scary for the young man who came to her assistance.

  3. Caryl L. Says:

    They sure didn’t skimp on the cake pieces. Yum

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Funny you should mention the size of the cake pieces because, as I was choosing, the cake distributor suggested I pick the largest piece. I said, “No, it looks really good, but I don’t need a piece that big.” Then along came my husband, who had not heard that exchange. He chose, you guessed it, the largest piece. And the rest of us burst into laughter.

  4. The true meaning of the Holiday – gathering together and celebrating – thanks for sharing. Happy Monday:)

  5. treadlemusic Says:

    You have truly captured the essence of small town living! Such comfort in knowing such. I wouldn’t trade living here for anything! All the food is fantastic appearing and the willing workers have such a great time doing it!!!!

  6. hotlyspiced Says:

    What a fantastic community event. I had a similar experience yesterday, Audrey. I was walking to work along the main road and a very elderly lady was walking towards me and she tripped and fell against a rough sandstone wall, slid along it then crashed onto the ground. I rushed to help her as did a couple of construction workers. Her skin was like tissue paper and it had ripped badly and was all gone along one arm from her wrist to her elbow and she had a deep gash in her hand. There was blood everywhere. I called one of her friends who came to help her and called a taxi and had her taken to the nearest medical centre. But, she was very lucky not to break a bone or smash her face or end up in hospital. Being old is not easy! xx

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, wow, Charlie, this sounds even more frightening than my experience. Being old is not easy and I wish I had paid more attention to this man behind me, noticed that he was so unsteady. But I didn’t.

  7. Jackie Says:

    You were quick to do the right thing, I’m glad the man was ok, It’s a scary time when people go down like that! (I could have been your nurse…16 years in the ER 🙂 The church meal looks lovely, I’m reading this at dinner time so It’s making quite hungry. I also love the dinner plate and matching coffee cup

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Ah, yes, Jackie, your presence would have been so welcome yesterday. Our second daughter told me that perhaps her dad and I ought to take a basic first aid class. A rather good idea.

      Yes, the food was delicious and I’m glad you noticed the plates. When I was picking up mine, I on-purpose chose the patterned one over a plain white one.

  8. So glad the gentleman was ok…

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Me, too. I had not idea, initially, why he had fallen. Given he wasn’t moving or uttering a sound, I was particularly scared.

  9. Marge Morris Says:

    Audrey, My husband and I co chair the planning of the Christmas Community dinner and I am so pleased with the nice wrtie up you did. It was truly a great day of fellowship and fun. Thanks for the nice comments.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You are most welcome. I think this is the third year Randy and I have come to the dinner. We enjoy the food and hospitality so much. Thank you and Ernie for organizing. I know Ernie from Faribault Lutheran School/Trinity Lutheran Church.

      Also, I have one more post coming, of the interior of your church. So watch for that.

      Have a wonderful Christmas!


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