On Tuesday, for the 12th time, the church will open its doors to the community for its annual Christmas Day dinner.
“Each year, more people have shown up for a great meal. Last year, we served 450 meals and we expect a higher amount. We have such a great time, and every year it has grown,” said organizer Vanne Rogers.
A traditional Christmas meal will be offered at no charge to anyone who shows up at St. Paul’s, 161 E. Ravine Road, at the corner of Watauga Street and Ravine near the roundabout. The meal will begin at 3 p.m.
But they don’t do it alone. Impact Plastics in Erwin gives a donation each year, which is used to purchase toys and candy for the families the church serves on Christmas Day. Food City donates hams as part of the gift bags. Holston Valley Medical Center pays for the entrees, sides and drinks. Members of the church prepare desserts.
Around 50 members of St. Paul’s volunteer their time during the dinner, but volunteers from outside the church also show up to help. Though the church has a number of different programs and ministries, they decided in 2003 to serve a Christmas Day meal as another form of outreach. The first year, they fed around 100 guests.
The meal is for anyone who would like to enjoy dinner with other families, not just for those served by Kitchen of Hope or the Salvation Army. Church members will provide live entertainment, coordinated each year by Keith Kramer.
St. Paul’s modeled its program after one in Bristol, Va., coordinated by Emmanuel Episcopal Church. Emmanuel will open its doors to the community again this year from 4 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, at 700 Cumberland St., Bristol, Va. Reservations are not necessary and there is no fee for the dinner.
Late parishioner and Bristol businessman Jack Trayer began the Christmas dinner at Emmanuel in 1981. With the cooperation of then-Rector George Bunn, Trayer funded the first dinner in December 1981 and remained an active benefactor and participant in the event until his death in 2006. Trayer’s wife, Loretta, and many church volunteers carry on the annual tradition.