M. Kim Lewis

The year was 1979. Jimmy Carter was president, and a small local Christian fellowship church meeting in Lithia Park's Community Center decided to reach out to seniors, singles, homeless and those without in-town families by offering a free Christmas Day dinner.

Turkeys and pies were cooked in the church member's homes with all the trimmings prepared on site. Surprisingly over 200 people had come through the doors four hours after the first meal was served.

"It appeared people from every walk of life just loved being together, dining and celebrating this wonderful day together," said Ginny Lewis, who is still a part of the outreach 28 years later as a part of her family's tradition.

"No one knew just how many would come, but we had so much joy working together on this special day decorating, cooking and celebrating the birth of Christ, it would've been worth the effort regardless."

This year's Christmas Day servings, by the same committed fellowship, has grown considerably since its humble beginnings. The one-day dinner consisted of more than 360 pounds of turkey, 60 pies, gallons of gravy, sweet potatoes, stuffing and mashed potatoes, bushels of broccoli, plus over 100 pounds of tossed salad.

More than 800 diners enjoyed the servings at the Old Ashland Historic Armory. The church outreach plans the event two months in advance of the day with over 150 volunteers from the Ashland Christian Fellowship and from other Ashland community members, as well as volunteers who come from California to participate, since it has become a part of some families' tradition during their visit to Ashland.

Christina Bern, who was the Fellowship's coordinator of dinner donations, said, "I found a spirit of giving amongst the businesses far beyond what would be considered normal for an event like this." Wal-mart contributed a $700 in-store gift certificate, and donations poured in from Umpqua Dairy, Dreyer's Ice Cream, Costco, Dagoba Chocolates, and Fresh Express Produce.

As I look around at the hundreds of people here today and sense the joy and love in this big room", Bern said. "I can truly see Jesus's words at work in this world. 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"