And to all ... a Christmas meal

Those who would be home alone — or lonely — on Christmas can instead come to two community dinners designed to spread holiday cheer with big spreads of turkey, mashed potatoes and pie.

Ashland Christian Fellowship will hold its 29th annual Christmas dinner from noon to 4 p.m. at the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St.

Immediately following that meal, Bellview Grange, 1050 Tolman Creek Road, will host a 4 p.m. Christmas potluck dinner as part of the Gathering Days events put on by the nonprofit community center.

Both gatherings are free and open to all, organizers said.

"This is Ashland Christian Fellowship's design: to no-strings-attached bless the community," said Luke Frechette, an associate pastor at the church.

In 2007, church and community volunteers served about 800 dinners and they are planning to serve that many this Dec. 25, he said.

Meanwhile, the Grange dished about 50 dinners last Christmas and had about 500 people come to holiday events in the four days before the holiday.

"It started a couple years ago when WebSpirit did a Thanksgiving meal and I walked in there and realized, there must be a lot of people that have nowhere to go and no one to be with over the holidays," said Elanah Whitenight, who is organizing the holiday festivities at the Grange.

The nonprofit will hold several activities each day through Christmas, including a potluck dinner each night.

"The purpose of it is to share community when people are far away from their families," Whitenight said, adding that the gatherings attract a wide-range of Ashlanders.

Although the two nonprofits hold meals on the same day, they aren't competing with each other because they are serving the same need, she explained. For example, last year leftovers from the Armory gathering were brought to the Grange and people there feasted until about 10 p.m., Whitenight said.

"There's a lot of things to do in Ashland, but part of the thing is, when the sun goes down around 4 o'clock, that alone thing starts creeping up. People suddenly go, 'I'm alone,' so that's why we do this," she said.

Frechette agreed, adding that even people with families and loved ones nearby choose to help out at the Christmas dinners.

"You see regular people who have homes with trees and presents under them, but they want to come out and really share with those who have nothing and nowhere to go," he said.

Both organizations are looking volunteers who would like to cook, cleanup or setup. For more information, call the Bellview Grange at 535-4700 or Ashland Christian Fellowship at 482-8539.

Staff writer Hannah Guzik can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 226 and

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