The annual community Christmas dinner will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Christmas Day in the historic Stolte Shed, 388 South Grand Mesa Drive (Hwy 65) in Cedaredge. The meal is free with contributions welcomed at the door.

As with years past, the community can help make this year’s Christmas dinner a success. Letters have gone out to prospective sponsors and recipients are urged to respond to sponsorship requests as soon as possible. Other community members can become part of this rewarding holiday tradition by volunteering and making cash donations. To volunteer, call Marsha Bryan at 970-234-8800. To contribute funds, mail checks made out to “Rotary Christmas Dinner” to Cedaredge Rotary, P.O. Box 750, Cedaredge, CO 81413.

Preparing dinner for 300 people may sound overwhelming, but it’s something that Les and Dorothy Mergelman and the Cedaredge Rotary Club have been doing for years. For nearly two decades the Cedaredge community has been gathering on Christmas Day to enjoy hearty food and good company. The popular event is reminiscent of a scene from a heart-warming, old-fashioned Christmas movie. All are welcome including community members seeking a hot meal, those in need of someone to spend Christmas with, and those who know how delicious and fun this special tradition has become.

The dinner has been an annual Surface Creek tradition since 2000 when Bob and Sally Beeson joined with other community members to host a Christmas gathering. In 2007, the Beeson family decided to spend their winters out-of-state and the Mergelmans along with Jack and Bev Gardner stepped up to manage the dinner. Each year the number of participants increased and soon more help was needed.

In 2013 Rotary began partnering with the Mergelmans and since then the club has helped continue the tradition. Cedaredge Rotary president Phyllis Hoffman has been heading up the effort for the last five years. Hoffman oversees advertising, fundraising, shopping, cooking, decorating, serving, delivering to homebound neighbors and she even coordinates the clean-up with the help of all of her fellow Rotarians.

Local restaurants loan equipment and local churches help by picking up boxes of food and recipes and then congregation members prepare green beans, sweet potatoes, dressing and apple salad. Every year Cedaredge’s Elberta Rebekah Lodge No. 106 and many other volunteers bring desserts. On Christmas Eve, volunteers “deck the halls” of the Stolte apple packing shed at Pioneer Town and their work transforms the spacious facility into a festive and beautiful Christmas dining room.

On Dec. 25, volunteer kitchen workers arrive early in the morning to cook the ham and turkey and begin making mashed potatoes and gravy. And — depending on the weather — volunteers may be busy in the parking lot shoveling a white Christmas snowfall. Additional volunteers will be on hand to serve the meal as friends, families and neighbors arrive for dinner. Finally, an essential volunteer clean-up crew gets to work scouring pots and pans, stacking chairs and tables, and packing everything up.

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