Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

All about community at annual Christmas dinner in Faribault December 16, 2019

 

IT IS, IN EVERY SENSE of the word, a community dinner.

 

 

From the moment I arrived at the Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church annual Community Christmas Dinner late Sunday morning in Faribault, I felt welcomed. Welcomed first by the door-holder/greeter dressed like an authentic Minnesotan in winter coat, boots and warm bomber hat. I didn’t envy his job on this cold December day. But he greeted me with a smile, commenting on Randy’s kindness in dropping me off at the door per my desire to avoid walking on snow and ice.

 

 

 

 

Down a flight of stairs, David and Jack greeted me, David being a Vietnam vet and Jack his service dog. A free-will offering at the dinner benefited the Northfield-based nonprofit Believet Canine Service Partners, which trains service dogs for veterans. I thought it particularly effective to have a vet and his dog at the dinner.

 

Volunteers serve a generous Christmas dinner.

 

 

Cupcake servers delivered the dessert to diners.

 

Once shed of my own winter garb, I waited for Randy and then, together, we walked through the doorway into the basement dining hall, already filling with dinner guests. There another greeter welcomed us and directed us to find a seat while waiting to get in the buffet line. Randy found a place next to Dale, a Wabasso High School classmate of mine, and his wife. Dale lives near Faribault and works in town. It’s always nice to occasionally run into him. Later, over dinner, we caught up and chatted about the class reunion he attended, and I missed, in September.

 

The scene outside Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church, Faribault, on Sunday.

 

Before I got my meal, though, I roamed taking photos. But not before I stopped to say hi to Greg, a friend and pastor of this church. He stood near the buffet line greeting guests. Yet another warm welcome.

 

Refilling the roaster with chicken.

 

A short while later Randy and I stood in line next to the mayor of Faribault, familiar with my blog, he said. I’m always thankful for those who appreciate the work I do here on Minnesota Prairie Roots. I try, in many ways, to build a welcoming sense of community through my writing and photography.

 

 

 

A print of the Minnesota state photograph, “Grace,” graces the basement dining hall, foreground. It hung near the table where I ate.

 

As servers scooped chicken breast, meatballs, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, carrots and a roll onto my plate, I thanked them. It takes a lot of work to put on a dinner that feeds around 400 people in my community. The serving portions were especially generous—too much for me. I later invited Randy to eat the remainder of my food, including half of a carrot cake cupcake that, although delicious, I simply could not finish.

 

The assortment of cupcakes led me to Cupcake Central.

 

Cupcake Central.

 

Enjoying a cupcake, the guy with the personalized tie.

 

While Randy continued eating, I looked for more photo ops, chatted with a man sporting a tie that featured photos of his grandchildren. He has a personalized tie collection numbering in the hundreds and used the photo ties as conversation starters while working as a speech pathologist. Oh, the things you learn when you pause to engage others. It’s all about community.

 

 

Not to be missed, the important dishwashing crew.

 

Then I popped into the kitchen.

 

These women wait for their ride.

 

I paused also to chat with a pastor I know from a rural church. Then another friend. More community connections. I could have talked longer. But Randy and I had an afternoon engagement to wrap Christmas gifts for the Angel Tree Project at our church, Trinity Lutheran. So we grabbed out coats and headed up to the sanctuary for a quick look at this beautiful, historic church. (See those photos in a future post.)

 

I took this photo through the window as the greeter helped a guest into a car.

 

But then I spotted one more photo op—the greeter helping two elderly women to a car pulled curbside. He asked for my help holding the church door. I leaned into the cold and held the door. Because this is what it’s all about. Being there for one another in this place called community.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

12 Responses to “All about community at annual Christmas dinner in Faribault”

  1. Brenda B Says:

    Audrey, thank you for writing and sharing this! Like I told you before we moved, your blog is a special link for me to good things we miss in Faribault! You do such a great job of capturing the whole story! Merry Christmas! 😊

    • Brenda, it’s an absolute joy to hear from you. You and Lyla have been in my thoughts recently, first at the Shattuck figure skating show and then on Sunday with the church dinner. I know you two would have been there helping. I miss seeing you out and about. I expect you’ve found a way to serve others in your new home and they will be blessed by your presence and service. A most blessed Christmas to you and those you love, my friend!

  2. valeriebollinger Says:

    You always do a nice job of building a sense of community.
    Looks like a delicious meal!

  3. Community is a true blessing to have all year round. There are certain places within our community that are like a check in to make sure everyone is doing well and see if anyone needs a helping hand. I am blessed with the group of neighbors that support one another too. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

    • That is so good to hear, that your neighbors are like family. Randy and I have found the same in Faribault in our church family. When you don’t have blood family nearby, you create a new family, a new village. Such a blessing, for sure.

  4. Gunny Says:

    Obviously cold weather but a great job of showing warm hearts during the holiday season.

  5. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson (One Minnesota Writer) Says:

    This is my favorite line: “Oh, the things you learn when you pause to engage others.” Yes, indeed!

  6. Ruth Says:

    Your community is so warm and loving despite your weather. All those coats! I can feel the loving spirit and I look at your photos and read your words.


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