Starting in 2014, the Presbyterian Church of Vinton began providing meals for the community on Christmas day. The mission was simple: give a good meal to those who would otherwise be alone or without on Christmas day.
With the realities of Covid-19, the church is not able to do its usual social, sit-down dinner. However, it is still sending out meals for pickup and delivery.
"While we will really miss the connectedness that the in-person dining provides, we know this is still an important mission," said Rev. Jessica Crane Munoz. "Perhaps more than ever, people need both food and joy this Christmas. There are so many folks who are living with food insecurity and so many seniors in our community who are alone this holiday."
Families are not traveling to see relatives and that puts many of the older population without a holiday meal this year. Seniors tell Crane Munoz that it just isn't worth it to cook a Christmas meal for just one or two people. That's where the church comes in.
"Even on a regular year Christmas can be lonely. Covid is making folks even more isolated than usual. If we can bring a little joy, then we are glad to do so. We want Christmas to be a day when we can celebrate Christ, and we are doing that through food," said Crane Munoz
This year the church is doing pick-up and delivery meals with no sit-down dining. Volunteers are going to be pared down to a minimum with no last-minute volunteers. In past years, individuals and families have often stopped by to help.
"Unfortunately, we can't take drop-in volunteers this year. We want to keep our volunteer numbers to a minimum to prevent possible Covid-19 spread," said Crane Munoz. Volunteers will be called the day before to be screened for Covid symptoms and all volunteers will wear masks. In addition, the menu has been simplified to cut down on the amount of time that volunteers are in the building with preparation and cooking. Part of that means there will be no meal substitutions this year.
"In the past, we have tried to accommodate various needs for Christmas meals. We want the meal to be something a person can eat and enjoy when it arrives, so we have taken care to meet special requests in the past," said Crane Munoz. "This year, it just isn't feasible."
Another change this year will be the required RSVPs for both pickup and delivery. All meals must be requested on or before December 23 with no late requests accepted. This allows volunteers to make the most expedient plans for serve-out, packing, and delivery. The church has set up an RSVP form that can be filled out online for both delivery and pick-up. It can be accessed through the church's website at www.vintonpresbyterian.org.