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Santa Claus paid a happy visit to the Christmas dinner at First Lutheran Church last year. Submitted Photo

Free dinner at First Lutheran on Christmas

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Nobody should be alone on Christmas -- that is the whole idea behind Christmas at Our House, a Christmas feast put on by volunteers at Detroit Lakes First Lutheran Church. The event, which has become a yearly tradition at the church, is set for Christmas day from noon until 2 p.m.

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Christmas at Our House, which is all-volunteer staffed, is free and open to the public. Thirty to 40 volunteers are rolling up their sleeves to cook a big, traditional Christmas meal for 350 to 400 people.

"We're going to have ham, turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes, vegetables and pie," said Tanzy Kratzke, event volunteer, who says their small army of volunteers will also be putting together meals to deliver.

"There are people who for one reason or another can't make it out of their homes and maybe don't have family visiting," said Kratzke, who says they end up delivering roughly 100 meals on Christmas. "They can just call us with their name, address, phone number and how many meals they want -- we will deliver it to them at no cost."

Kratzke says the food for the meals has all been donated or purchased from donations, making the meal truly one that comes from the heart. "It's fun, it's full and it's festive," said Kratzke. "All the servers have on Christmas aprons; there is Christmas music playing, there's lots of noise, chatter and laughter."

And it wouldn't be Christmas at a church unless there was meaning behind it. From Sunday through Christmas, there will be four worship services at First Lutheran leading up to the meal and one after, including candlelight services Christmas Eve at 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

"For me it helps me keep the awareness of the reason we're celebrating in the first place," said Kratzke. "There's something so holy about the atmosphere that I just love. As people of faith, that's what we're called to do is walk in love and open our arms to our community and caring about them at Christmas."

One of the event coordinators for Christmas at Our House, Twylla Zickmark, says although many people have made it a family tradition to spend time at the church volunteering, they are always looking for more help.

"We used to block out times for volunteers to be there, but I found people were enjoying it so much they would end up staying the whole time anyway," said Zickmark, who says for her, this is what Christmas is all about.

"It's a sense of joy," said Zickmark. "I keep doing this because it's a huge sense of giving and a sense of joy. Since I've been doing this I feel like Christmas is complete since doing this -- I can't put it into words because it's really more feelings than words."

Zickmark also says the strong numbers of people who show up for dinner and to volunteer shows that there is still a demand and a need for something like this in the community, "and as long as there is a need for it, we'll do it," she said, adding that people who are able to get Christmas meals delivered to them tell the volunteer every year how incredibly appreciative they are that somebody or some organization does something like this for people on Christmas.

Kratzke says although they will be celebrating the Christian meaning behind the holiday, the event also extends to those not in the faith.

"There's no question that there's some outreach," said Kratzke, "but really, this is about a community Christmas. It's about coming together and making sure that nobody spends Christmas alone."

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