Enjoy Christmas dinner with others

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 24, 1999

Nobody need spend Christmas Day alone in Austin.

Friday, December 24, 1999

Nobody need spend Christmas Day alone in Austin.

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There are not one, but two community dinners being served.

The Salvation Army Austin Corps is hosting one of them and friends and family of Peter Klein will host another at the Mower County Senior Center.

The former is a ministry of the Salvation Army. The latter is helping family and friends who lost a loved one deal with that tragedy.

Serving begins at noon at the Salvation Army’s community center, 409 First Ave. NE and ends at 1:30 p.m.

Anyone wishing to assist in the preparation, serving and cleanup Saturday may call 437-4566 to volunteer, according to Lori Espe, volunteer coordinator.

Once again, Bethlehem Free Methodist Church members will be involved in the project.

The dinner is, of course, free to those who come and the menu includes a traditional Christmas Day dinner of turkey and all the trimmings, plus vegetables, rolls, coffee and milk and dessert.

No reservations are necessary. Anyone wishing to attend only has to show up Saturday and enjoy the meal.

The Salvation Army staff, including Capts. Doug and Linda Yeck, officers in charge, will host the community dinner and lead in the singing of Christmas carols and fellowship with everyone.

If there is a better way to celebrate Christmas in Austin, then Saturday’s community dinner at the Mower County Senior Center at 400 Third Ave. NE, it escapes notice.

"We want to help others get through the Christmas season and enjoy the time, but the real reason we are doing this is to help ourselves get through the holiday," Gladys Bliss said.

Her son, Peter Klein, died June 2, 1998, in a tragic accident. He was only 32.

Not only did he leave behind his mother, sisters and other relatives, but a legion of friends and acquaintances.

In addition, one special friend – the woman he loved, his fiancee – would mourn the loss.

"His caring for other people is what, I think, made him so well-liked and popular," the mother said. "He genuinely cared about other people. He could talk with old people and young people. He just enjoyed visiting to people and hearing their stories."

So well-liked was the young man, that after befriending a neighbor, he was given a place of honor with the family when a close relative of their’s died.

"That’s the kind of man he was," the mother said. "He made you feel better about life and you wanted to draw him closer to you, whether you were a relative or a friend or a stranger."

Last year, only months after the death, the mother and other relatives decided to hold a free community dinner at the Senior Center in honor of the loved one who died.

This year, Iris Hansen, executive director of the Senior Center, reports receiving more than 60 reservations for the Saturday dinner. Meanwhile, Gladys and Chuck Bliss have received 30 more at their home.

They expect drop-ins on Christmas Day and are prepared for that contingency.

"We won’t turn anyone away," the mother said.

The Christmas Day dinner is intended for anyone who will otherwise be alone that day, young or old, singles, couples and families.

Since November, the mother and others have been preparing for the Christmas Day dinner of turkey and all the trimmings. They have attracted a large group of volunteers to help.

"We appreciate so much the help we have received and all the volunteers. They’re wonderful," the mother said.

Serving will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Senior Center and those attending will be doing something Peter Klein enjoyed doing at Christmas.

"He enjoyed being with the family at Christmas," she said. "He didn’t care so much for exchanging presents, but he did enjoy being with family and friends and visiting. He said that was what Christmas is all about."

Will this become an annual event?

"His family is very excited about doing this and I know the grandchildren are extremely excited," the mother said. "We plan to continue it as long was we can. It’s helping us as much as it is anyone."