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God's Kitchen blesses community with free Christmas dinner and gifts
Updated December 21, 2017 at 8:32 AM; Posted December 21, 2017 at 8:30 AM
By Kayla Miller
KALAMAZOO, MI -- A free Christmas dinner with ham, baked chicken, mashed potatoes and pie was served up to those in need Wednesday in Kalamazoo.
God's Kitchen of Michigan, along with Santa and Mrs. Claus hosted a free Christmas dinner at First United Methodist Church, 212 S. Park St., and handed out gifts to needy families, Wednesday, Dec. 20, from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Pastor William Stein, chairman and co-founder of God's Kitchen, said this is the sixth Christmas meal given to the community. Stein said the organization planned to hand out about 300 meals during Wednesday's dinner.
"This is a hunger relief program," Stein said. "We know that the need is great."
Kalamazoo County Commissioner Tracy Hall put on her apron preparing to dish out food, while talking about the importance of the organization.
"I grew up in poverty," Hall said. "I understand what food scarcity is and I'm lucky that I had a good community to help my mom and I through. This is just my way of being able to contribute."
Among other volunteers helping serve up the food were 11 Galesburg-Augusta High School students. Their teacher, Gabby Wahla, said the idea to volunteer was the students.
"I'm glad my students are getting to help out and serve other people," she said.
Wahla, who is an AmeriCorps member and volunteered throughout college, said service is "really important" to her.
"I'm really glad I get to implement that with my students," she said.
In addition to a free meal, families with children were offered a chance to see Santa and Mrs. Claus and receive a free Christmas gift.
An iPhone, Pokemon cards, a unicorn and Nerf guns were a few of the items that kids asked for while perched on the knee of Santa.
One little boy couldn't tell Santa what he wanted, instead he sat nervously smiling with his chin tucked down while his mom snapped photos on her phone. Another little girl excitedly ran toward her mom after receiving her Bratz Doll, yelling to Santa "Thank you for bringing my present. Bye Santa."
Santa and Mrs. Claus, or Battle Creek residents Ken and Lorie Nierman, said they have been dressing the part and brightening the days of children who come to God's Kitchen since 1999.
"I really enjoy meeting the kids," Lorie Nierman said.
"It's an experience," Ken Nierman added.
He said the beard was real, only to be questioned later by one boy who didn't quite believe. While sitting on his lap, the boy pulled on his white beard causing laughter to erupt through the crowd of parents and volunteers.