Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Free food & fellowship in Faribault on Fourth December 16, 2016

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

Diners at the 2012 Community Christmas Dinner in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I LOVE ALLITERATION, the repetition of sound that rolls off the tongue like a musical refrain: Free food and fellowship in Faribault on Fourth.

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo of a past dinner.

The meal minus cranberries and bread. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

This alliteration requires explanation: Fourth Avenue United Method Church in Faribault will host its 14th annual Community Christmas Dinner from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Sunday, December 18. The meal of turkey, meatballs, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, bread, cranberries and Christmas cake is free. However, donations are accepted with a portion of those gifts benefiting charities in Rice County.

Volunteers hard at work in the kitchen. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Volunteers hard at work in the kitchen. They feed several hundred. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Several years have passed since I attended this church basement dinner at 219 Fourth Avenue Northwest. I have only positive words for the delicious Christmas meal served by friendly folks. I enjoy the food as much as the conversation with volunteers and diners in a festive holiday setting.

Volunteer Madeline serves Christmas cake at a past dinner. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

Volunteer Madeline serves Christmas Cake at a past dinner. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

The most memorable menu item for me is the dessert—poke cake. These Methodists call it Christmas Cake, perhaps because of the red and green sugar sprinkled atop the Cool Whip frosting. Poke cake traces to the 1970s; I remember my mom preparing this cake for special occasions like Christmas. It’s a white or yellow cake mix poked with a fork after baking with Jell-O poured atop. Red or green Jell-O filters through the holes and into the cake. I’m not big on cake. But I’m big on memories.

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

The congregation of the beautiful Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church in Faribault hosts the Christmas dinner. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I’m also big on gratitude to the good people at Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church who give this gracious gift to my community each Christmas.

Thank you.

TELL ME: Does a free Community Christmas Dinner exist in your community? Or have you ever tried poke cake?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Faribault: The blessings of a Community Christmas Dinner December 13, 2013

One of the principal rules of religion is to lose no occasion of serving God. And, since he is invisible to our eyes, we are to serve him in our neighbor; which he receives as if done to himself in person, standing visibly before us.—  John Wesley, co-founder of the Methodist movement

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

A street-side sign welcomes diners to the 2012 free Community Christmas Dinner. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

IT’S NOT LIKE I NEED a free meal. There’s plenty of food in my cupboards, refrigerator and freezer.

But, for the past several years, I’ve eaten at the Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church, Faribault, Community Christmas Dinner.

For me, dining in the basement of this 1915 church just weeks before Christmas is about being part of my community—connecting with friends and strangers in the spirit of neighborliness and holiday good will.

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

A sampling of the volunteer crew which puts on the Christmas dinner. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

There’s something about partaking in a community meal, prepared and served by a crew of dedicated volunteers, that makes me feel embraced and cherished.

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

My meal, minus the cranberries, bread and cake which were also served. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

I appreciate the smiles of servers dishing turkey and meatballs, mashed potatoes with gravy and green beans onto hefty plates that have graced this church basement through many an occasion. In my plate, I feel the weight of grief and joy, of comfort and celebration.

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

Volunteers served around 225 diners at the free Community Christmas Dinner in 2012. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

In the closeness of back-to-back folding chairs pulled to tables draped with red and green plastic tablecloths and topped with festive poinsettias, I engage in warm conversation.

It’s all about connecting here, through words and food.

The din of a church basement is unequaled—rise and fall of voices, clatter of dishes and kettles, occasional outbursts of laughter.

To be there nourishes more than my body. This Community Christmas Dinner also feeds my soul and reaffirms for me that I am blessed to call Faribault home.

And another worker handed out Christmas cake.

The meal always ends with the serving of Christmas cake.

FYI: The Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church Community Christmas Dinner will be served from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Sunday, December 15, in the church basement at 219 Fourth Avenue Northwest, Faribault. Take-out meals will be available between 10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.

Free will offerings are accepted with those donations going back to the community.

To read my post about last year’s dinner, click here.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling