The first community Christmas dinner at the Pittsburg Presbyterian Church was something of an experiment.

The first community Christmas dinner at the Pittsburg Presbyterian Church was something of an experiment.

“We’ll do it and see what happens,” the Rev. K.O. Noonoo, pastor, said in an interview a few days before the meal.

What happened was that about 550 people feasted on ham, turkey, party potatoes, vegetables and a lot of desserts, including several kinds of homemade pie.

The total included 200 people who at the church, with the remainder being those who got to-go orders or had meals delivered to their homes.

“We started serving a little early, at 10 minutes before 11 a.m., because people were waiting,” Rev. Noonoo said.

“I visited with one gentleman who came over from Lamar, Mo.,” said the pastor’s wife, Anna Noonoo.

“It was just wonderful,” said Pauline Smith as she left the church with her son, Clancy. “The meal was just delicious and everyone was so warm, friendly and helpful. They even put Cool Whip on my pie for me.”

Though the dinner was hosted by the Presbyterian Church, Rev. Noonoo said that many other churches, groups and caring individuals helped out.

“The response from the community has been overwhelming,” he said. “Members of the First Christian Church and the First Church of the Nazarene have come in great numbers to help out.”

Diana Kerle noted that St. John Lutheran Church, which has hosted a community Thanksgiving Day dinner for many years, lent quite a bit of equipment to help with the Christmas dinner.

“That was very kind of them to do that,” said Kerle, who helps organize the Thanksgiving dinner every year.
“We’re going to have a lot of thank-you letters to write.”

Travis McKee, youth and young adult pastor at the First Christian Church, helped with meal delivery.

“When you offer something up like this, people will come,” McKee said. “I’ll be going home to Tulsa for the holidays, but I wanted to stick around for the Christmas dinner.”

One of the places where he delivered meals was the Knights of Columbus Towers. Judy Nicholas, a resident there who helped coordinate the effort, said that 14 meals were ordered for a small group dinner, with others going to residents who preferred to eat in their apartments.

“The food was absolutely wonderful, and everybody here appreciated it,” Nicholas said. “The young people who came here with the food were so well organized and so pleasant.”

She was also amazed at the amount of food provided.

“They were so generous,” Nicholas said. “You won’t believe the amount of ham they gave us. Most people got at least two slices of ham.”

“I’ve got enough left over for supper,” said Towers resident Vonda Choate.

Resident Charlanne Gadberry and her husband decided to go eat at the church.

“The food at the church was excellent, and they had the nicest high school kids to help us,” she said.

“It was good eating,” said Dottie Bolte, who celebrated her 93rd birthday on Dec. 24 and has lived in the Towers for 28 years.

Kerle said she believes one reason why the meal went so well was the number of volunteers.

“We had plenty of help, that was the main thing,” Kerle said. “A world of people stayed and helped clean up afterward, and that really helped.”

One volunteer, Debbie Talbott, came from Fort Scott to help out.

“I checked for opportunities to volunteer in Fort Scott and couldn’t find anything, so I got on the Internet and found this,” she said.

She brought along Sorrio, her shih tzu, who stayed in a Sunday school room, far from Leffler Life Center, while Talbott helped with the meal.

“Now I’m taking Sorrio and we’ll visit at a nursing home,” she said.

Rev. Noonoo said that he, his congregation and volunteers learned a lot during the planning and serving of the meal.

Perhaps two of the most important things learned were that the community wants a Christmas Day dinner and will turn out to support it.

“We do hope to do this again next year,” Rev. Noonoo said.