A hot meal on Christmas started because Carl Perron and his now ex-wife didn’t want seniors to get a frozen meal for Christmas.
Eighteen years later, Mid-City Concerns Senior Center’s Christmas dinner has grown to include any person who needs a hot meal for the holiday.
“Some of these people I’ve seen for 20 years,” Perron said between pushing a rolling rack of desserts. “It’s my family. It’s been great.”
Back in the kitchen of Mid-City Concerns Meals on Wheels, at 1222 W. Second Ave., 60-year-old volunteer “Hook” barked out orders for other volunteers as they prepared meals. Out front, Perron started seniors through the food line.
Hook, who said he changed his name to remind himself of the motorcycle crash in 1998 that cost him his left arm, got to the kitchen at 5 a.m. But volunteers were on hand for hours Sunday night to begin food preparations.
“We learn in church that we are supposed to give back. I’m fat and happy,” he said. “Why not give back to some people?”
Bob and Cheryl Schwartz pick out a charity each year to volunteer. This was their first go-around with the Mid-City Concerns Christmas meal.
“We’ve helped the food bank, Toys for Tots and Catholic Charities,” said Schwartz, 67, of Spokane. “This was our first event with Meals on Wheels. We love it. This is our home from now on.”
Schwartz said he and his wife helped for about five hours on Sunday to begin food preparations.
“Last night a few homeless people wandered in when they saw the lights,” Schwartz said. Perron “treated these people with such respect and dignity. The food wasn’t ready, but he said, ‘How about a pot of coffee?’ ”
As the folks who wandered in off the street had a doughnut with their coffee, Perron offered them new boots and socks.
“He just sat there and visited with them for 15 or 20 minutes,” Schwartz said.
Perron said his outreach began in 1999 when his former wife learned what the seniors in a local home were going to get for a Christmas meal.
“We put together a dozen volunteers and provided 120 meals that first year,” Perron said. “We cooked turkeys in our own ovens and brought them here.”
Perron mentioned the outreach to others at Southside Christian Church. “They came on board,” Perron said. “Now it’s a big deal for our church. Now it’s organized.”
The effort also gets help from Feed Thy Neighbor of the Inland Northwest, which is a service connected to the United Way that helps find volunteers.
In addition to hot meals, Perron had sleeping bags, blankets, 125 coats, socks and gloves to hand out if they were needed.
Ron Dahlman, 80, was just about to get his meal Monday. The former military intelligence officer for both the U.S. Air Force and Army said he’s gotten his Christmas meal at the center for years.
“I’ve been a member here since I was 61,” Dahlman said. “I’m not big on cooking at home. I’ve seen Carl do several of these. I just love them.”
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