On a Sunday in early 1999, a visiting preacher, Brother Joe Matlock, came to the Waynesboro Cumberland Presbyterian Church and made a remark during his sermon. The church had scheduled a covered dish dinner immediately after church. Brother Matlock said, “Jesus said feed the poor, and what are we doing today? Feeding ourselves.” This comment sparked a decision of the Waynesboro CP Session to provide a free Christmas dinner for those in need, those that are lonely on Christmas Day, and for anyone else that wants to celebrate the birth of the greatest gift the world has ever known.
Christmas Day 1999, church members gathered at the Waynesboro Senior Citizen Center to slice meat, set up tables, and get all things ready. A challenge was encountered as the oven refused to cooperate. Work volunteers scattered over town to the homes of members and other locations to heat and brown the large pans of dressing prepared and donated by Carolyn Bradley. At 11:00 a.m. guests started arriving, and by 2:00 p.m. approximately 50 volunteers had participated. More than 200 plates were served including plates carried to the old Wayne County Jail.
The following year, Christmas 2000, Terry and Carolyn Bradley offered Bradley’s Restaurant to host the Christmas dinner, and this became the site of this annual dinner for the next thirteen years. Since 2013, the leadership of Waynesboro Middle School has allowed the use of their dining room and cafeteria for this annual tradition. Though school leadership, cafeteria staff, and janitorial staff have changed through the years, this continued support has enabled the tradition to continue.
The volunteer base has grown with other churches, Turney Center Annex staff, and local citizens contributing to this event. Ray Pulley has been the consistent “chef” through the years, providing his experience to the event, while Hollis Academy and Savannah Food Company have supported the dinner with donations of food products. Donations received from Waynesboro CP Church Members, individuals in the Wayne County community, and friends from afar help offset the cost of providing a traditional Christmas meal, as well.
Christmas Day 2019, 144 plates were served in the school cafeteria, 255 carry out plates were provided, and 323 meals were delivered to individuals, County Jail, Boyd Cottages, and Hollis Academy. A total of 722 meals provided, which had become a standard expected performance.
The COVID pandemic of 2020 challenged the Community Christmas Dinner. Waynesboro CP members decided that the tradition must continue and modified to delivery only. Emeralds Restaurant owner Michael Francis offered his resources and supported the preparations and plating of food to be delivered to community residents. In 2021, the tradition returned to Waynesboro Middle School, although modified, to carry out and delivery meals only. Meals were provided for 625 individuals through this approach.
The Annual Community Christmas Dinner will celebrate its 23rd year on December 25, 2022, between the hours of 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Meals will be served in the Waynesboro Middle School Cafeteria, carry out plates available, and meal delivery services scheduled.
Matthew 25:34-40 states, “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, my Father has blessed you! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me into your home. I needed clothes and you gave me something to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’” The Community Christmas Dinner allows us to celebrate the birth of Christ together while sharing blessings with others.
Volunteers are welcome to join in this tradition of sharing and caring for one another between the hours of 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. on December 25. If you would like to participate or need additional information, call or text Susan Myers at (931) 722-4830 or leave a message on the Waynesboro CP Church Facebook page.