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Fellowship, food draw for annual holiday meal

Bev Labraaten serves one of the first plates of food Tuesday during the Community Christmas Meal at Bemidji's Calvary Lutheran Church.1 / 3
Carol Hagstrom sets out silverware just before noon on Christmas Day in anticipation of the Community Christmas Meal. Hagstrom wore a red hat with bells as part of the festivities.2 / 3
Joan Meulebroeck provides last-minute instructions to volunteers before the Community Christmas Meal at Bemidji's Calvary Lutheran Church on Tuesday. About 100 volunteers helped in various capacities to serve the anticipated 450 meals.3 / 3

BEMIDJI – For the volunteers who help put on the annual Bemidji Community Christmas meal, the event is more than just feeding the masses.

It’s about sharing a place to gather for fellowship and camaraderie during the holidays.

“It’s really enjoyable for everybody that comes, even the volunteers,” said Marci Plemel, one of the organizers for this year’s meal.

About 100 volunteers turned out Tuesday to help with the annual event, from serving up plates of ham, potatoes and corn to delivering meals, setting tables and washing dishes.

Organizers planned on serving about 450 meals, with a third of those being delivered, this Christmas.

Joan Meulebroeck, an organizer who provided last minute instructions to volunteers before the doors opened to the public, said the event is special “because it’s a community gathering… It’s not about church. It’s people from every denomination that want to see it happen.”

Eight churches coordinate efforts to make the community meal happen – at both Thanksgiving and Christmas – and the sit-down meal location rotates each time. This year’s Christmas meal was served at Calvary Lutheran Church.

Sometimes planning for the meal is a bit of a guessing game.

“We want everybody in the community to know that anybody and everybody can come,” Plemel said. “Nobody should be alone at the holidays.”

The meal also isn’t income-dependent. Many simply want to share a smile and laugh with others on the holiday.

“It’s fun,” said Bev Labraaten, a Bemidji woman who helped serve up meals Tuesday. “I enjoy doing it.” 

Steve Wagner

Grand Forks Herald Editor Steve Wagner can be reached at 701.780.1104 and swagner@gfherald.com. He joined the Herald in April 2013, and previously worked as editor at the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer and in several roles -- including news director, investigative reporter and crime reporter - at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. His reporting experience includes coverage of Dru Sjodin's disappearance and the federal death penalty case for her murderer, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., along with several investigative projects. In his spare time, Wagner is an avid runner and occasionally writes about his experiences on his blog, Addicted to Running.

(701) 780-1104
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