Free meals on Christmas down to one

Those looking for a free Christmas meal in Ashland have one remaining option.

Ashland Christian Fellowship will host its annual Christmas meal Friday at the Historic Ashland Armory. Guests can arrive at noon for a traditional Christmas feast — complete with turkey and stuffing, potatoes, salad and pie for dessert.

In previous years, other Christmas day events had been held. Volunteers served dinners to around 50 guests at the Bellview Grange last year and held several community gatherings during Christmas week.

But Grange officials this year said their volunteer force is too thin to hold another Christmas feast, leaving the Christian Fellowship meal as the only free meal on Christmas.

It will be the 30th consecutive year the Christian Fellowship has put on a holiday meal. The Rev. Luke Frenchette of ACF called the annual event "a dinner for the whole community" — a chance for members of different groups to come together for an afternoon of food and fun.

"It's definitely something we enjoy doing, something we've seen have a value to the community in the past," Frenchette said. "It takes a lot of energy and effort on our part, but it's well worth it."

Frenchette spent last weekend ordering 360 pounds of turkey from Shop'n Kart and fresh bread from The Apple Cellar. He said that, based on turnout from previous years, he expects to feed between 800 and 1,000 people on Friday.

Frenchette credited the event's continued success to a dedicated volunteer corps and to hundreds of local residents whose presence each year makes the event a special occasion. He emphasized that everyone in the community, not just those faced with unfortunate circumstances, is invited.

"People in fur coats with nice jewelry are there, and people in hand-me-down coats with no jewelry are there, sitting next to people and sharing a meal," Frenchette said. "For some, it's the only time all year people like that can come together. It really is for the whole community."

Officially, the event runs from noon to 4 p.m. Guests can come at any point during that span and expect to leave full and happy, Frenchette said.

"There will just be a steady trickle throughout the day. The line will never be too long," he said. "People can just meander down when they feel like."

The Historic Ashland Armory is located at 208 Oak St., near downtown. Free rides to the Armory can be arranged by calling the Ashland Christian Fellowship at 482-8539.

Those with a few dollars to spare can spend Christmas at Callahan's Siskiyou Lodge, near Exit 6 south of Ashland. For $26, guests can enjoy a three-course meal with entrees including turkey, honey-glazed ham, prime rib, salmon or trout, as well as vegetarian items.

"We expect to have 500 to 600 guests that day," said Donna Bergquist, co-owner of Callahan's. "We'll have live music throughout the day and we have seven Christmas trees."

Reservations are required and can be made by calling Callahan's Siskiyou Lodge at 482-1299.

Elon Glucklich is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Contact him at eglucklich@gmail.com.

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