By Jeffery Smith

CORNING - Ian Mackenzie was one of about 90 people looking for somewhere to have a hot home-cooked meal for Christmas, and he and others were very impressed with a free dinner Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church.

“This is a great help to the community,” Mackenzie said moments after receiving his meal at the church. “So many people don’t have anywhere to go, this event is just a nice outing for everyone to enjoy.”

Barbara Sammis, event chair, said the free Christmas dinner event has been held at the church for the past 44 years and have been an enormous success.

“Over the years it has grown to the point where we serve anywhere from 80 to 90 people in our dining room,” Sammis said. “We also have a group who transport people who don’t have a ride to get here and deliver those who are shut in.”

In the true spirit of the holiday, dozens of volunteers rose early Christmas morning to prepare a feast of turkey dinner with stuffing, green beans, potatoes, rolls, cranberry and other fixings, topped off by pies for dessert.

“The event has about 30 volunteers,” Sammis said. “They really enjoy doing this. The volunteers are looking for something to be giving on Christmas and make it more meaningful for themselves and others.”

Pastor Jeff Ugoretz said just prior to the Christmas Day meal, about 65 people sang songs and worshiped at the church.

“We just see (the event) as a great opportunity to be of service to our community and to share the joy of Christmas with as many people in our community as we can,” Ugoretz said. “This is an opportunity for all of us to really participate in the true meaning of Christmas, which is to give of ourselves so that others can enjoy the good things of life.”

Sammis said volunteers were involved with preparing food, setting up the dining hall, serving the food and cleaning up afterward as well as providing needed transportation.