This Christmas, as it has every Christmas Day for the past two decades, the Junction City Church of the Nazarene will host a free-to-the-public holiday dinner.
From 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Dec. 25, at the church at 1025 S. Washington St., anyone who wants is welcome to stop by the church for a bite to eat.
Lindey Martinez has served as compassionate ministries outreach director JC Naz for roughly two years and said the 19th annual Christmas dinner would be much the same as it had been in the past.
"We reach a lot of people through this outreach, and I was really excited about that,” she said. "So we've kind of kept it the same.”
The menu will include turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing, cranberry dressing, and a choice of a piece of cake or a piece of pie.
The general idea is to offer people who don’t have a Christmas dinner or anyone to eat it with a chance to come socialize and receive a home cooked meal.
"If they don't have anywhere to go or they just want something new to do with their family,” Martinez said. "We have a lot of volunteers that come every year and they've been doing it for a long, long time."
For her, she said — and for many others involved in the meal — it’s all about loving others.
"People are very important,” Martinez said. “Your community’s important. And I think we want to continue to show the community that we love them, we appreciate that we're able to serve in the community, we appreciate the people that are in the community. So the meal is basically just loving people.”
She acknowledges the holiday season can be hard on people, especially those who are alone for Christmas and who may have negative emotions associated with this time of year.
“Some people don't have families, some people don't have the money to be able to provide, you know, a meal for their families,” Martinez said. "So let us help you do that … It doesn't matter whether you come to this church, it doesn't matter if you even believe in God. What matters is that you're loved."
The church is prepared for hundreds of people to show up to the meal, she said. Last year, volunteers served about 600 meals, including about 300 deliveries and 300 in-person dinners.
"The more that we have the more excited we get about it,” Martinez said. "So we're just kind of welcoming the whole entire town if they want to come."
Children up to the age of 18 who attend the meal in person will receive a gift, she said, and adults who show up at the church will receive traditional Christmas goodie bags filled with nuts, oranges, and candy.
For Martinez, in addition to spreading her faith and helping others through the holidays, the meal is also about combating food insecurity, which is rampant in Geary County.
"We're considered a food desert here,” she said. “Me and my husband grew up very poor as well. And so we understand being in a family that's not able to provide enough to eat. And so that's really close to our hearts. And we're trying to make a really big difference in Junction City and trying to change that."
During the event, the church’s House of Hope clothing ministry will be open.
People who can’t make it to the church in person because of work or because they’re homebound can still take part in the meal. To arrange a delivery, people are asked to call the church with their name and the number of meals they need at 785-762-4402 by or before Dec. 23. Meals are expected to be out for delivery starting around 11 a.m. Christmas Day.