Champaign to host eighth annual free community Christmas Dinner

By Daily Illini Staff Report

First Christian Church will be the host site for Champaign’s annual Community Christmas Dinner for people who will be alone for the holidays.

This is the eighth year of the dinner, and the number of people who attend has been increasing each year, said Lynne Barnes, event coordinator. 

She said that over the past five years there have been around 400 people in attendance.

“We try to make it like a fine restaurant,” Barnes said. “The dinner is served sit-down style instead of buffet style.”

The people working the dinner, whether it’s by cooking or by serving, are volunteers, and the food is donated. Dinner rolls, for example, are donated by Texas Roadhouse.

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Barnes said the room the dinner is hosted in can hold up to 500 people, so it is very convenient for this event.

“(First Christian Church has) been very gracious to let us use it for free,” she said.

The event will be on Christmas Day. Appetizers will be served at 12:30 p.m. and the dinner will be at 1 p.m.

Barnes said she got inspired by a news article that told the story of a small town that had a community Christmas dinner that fed about 50 people and she decided she wanted to do the same.

“It’s a way to serve other people,” she said.

The holidays can sometimes be a sad and lonely time for people, and not everybody has a place to go either. Barnes started this event so people around the area could have plans for Christmas.

“It’s a nice activity on Christmas Day that people can go to,” Barnes said.

Some students stay on campus over winter break as well, and maybe do not have a place to go for Christmas, either. Volunteering or attending this dinner is a good way to spend the holiday for those students, Barnes said.

Jim Turpin, host of “Penny for Your Thought” on WDWS-AM, will serve as the guest emcee at the event.

According to First Christian Church’s website, dinner is free, but reservations are due no later than Thursday, December 21, by texting or calling (217) 991-0250 or by emailing [email protected].

The church also notes that the guests must provide their name, phone number and number of guests. Any guests under 12 years old will receive a small gift.

Transportation to the church will be available in five pickup spots: Sunnycrest Manor, Steer Place, Illinois Terminal, Round Barn Manor and Restoration Urban Ministries. The guests will need to specify transportation needs during reservation.

The event will be held no matter the weather conditions.

[email protected]