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The Rev. Daniel Johnson, pastor of the United Methodist Temple in Beckley, and Sheila Johnson, secretary, display some of the items volunteers will prepare and serve for the annual free Christmas Day dinner at the Beckley Convention Center. Volunteers are still needed for various chores that go with the project.

Christmas Day isn’t always the replica of a Norman Rockwell painting or a nostalgic visit with “The Waltons.” For some, it’s a difficult holiday, perhaps because of a recent divorce or family break-up, financial circumstances or the fact someone is alone with no family nearby.

“Christmas is a very family-oriented holiday,” said the Rev. Dan Johnson, pastor of the United Methodist Temple in Beckley. “That’s all wonderful and good when you have lots of family members and loved ones around you, but if you’ve recently lost a spouse or if you are alone, this of all holidays can be a difficult day.”

Each year, church members and volunteers from the community prepare a full Christmas dinner to be served free to anyone who wants to dine from noon to 4 p.m. on Christmas Day.

The meal is provided at the Beckley Convention Center, formerly the Raleigh County Armory, a spot church leaders found to be the most accessible to the community at large.

“There are people who would come to a more neutral location like the armory than they would to a church. We wanted to have this meal where as many people as possible could come and enjoy it,” Johnson said.

Monetary donations from the church and the community provide the 50 turkeys, 20 hams and all the side dishes and desserts for the meal.

The menu includes ham, turkey, dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, tossed salad, rolls, cakes, pies, beverages — all homemade.

Volunteers begin preparing the meal two days before Christmas, and Peerless Co. provides refrigerated trucks to transport food. McDonald’s provides salads, milk and condiments.

No coupons or tickets are necessary. Everything is free.

“This is an outreach ministry to people in our community, and anyone who wants to be part of that ministry is encouraged to come out and help. We welcome folks from other churches, civic groups or just individuals who want to come out and do something nice for someone else on Christmas Day,” Johnson said.

The pastor said he expects at least 1,500 people to come and enjoy the free meal this year.

“There are lots of needs in our community, and I expect there will be more people than ever before who will want to come and join us for the meal,” Johnson said.

The meal will be served from noon to 4 p.m.

For information, call 252-6213.

— E-mail: bdavis@register-herald.com

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