The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 25, 2010

Salvation Army serves dinner, companionship

MANKATO — After cooking some 6,000 meals of turkey, ham, potatoes and all the trimmings at Salvation Army Christmas dinners, Pat and Connie Murphy have mixed feelings about hanging up their aprons.

“It’s going to be hard waking up next Christmas and knowing we’re not going to come here,” Connie said.

“It’s been twenty years, it’s time to pass the baton,” Pat said.

The Murphys’ 20th year as the volunteer head cooks would have happened last year, except for the first time the Salvation Army’s dinner had to be canceled because of weather.

On Saturday, the Murphys and a crew of volunteers worked with easy precision getting the meals ready for some 300 people who came to the Salvation Army’s downtown shelter. They also boxed up 70 dinners to be delivered to senior living centers.

“The true volunteers who come in every year and know what to do — that’s the key,” Connie said. In fact, in 20 years she recalls just one major glitch. The time they came in early one Christmas morning and realized they had no vegetables to serve. A volunteer, who worked at the Gustavus Adolphus College kitchen, went to Gustavus, cooked some beans and delivered them to Mankato.

Pat said their volunteerism, which often involved their children when they were  younger, has been rewarding. “It just a matter of giving back. People think the Salvation Army is just about poor people, but it’s not just that. It’s about people alone on Christmas.”

Capt. Cynthia Parker, who with her husband, Capt. Mike, oversee the local Salvation Army, said the Christmas dinner goes back to the founding of the organization in the 1860s in London. Founder William Booth, after visiting the homeless and poor on Christmas morning returned home to a large family dinner, but couldn’t shake the despair he’d seen in the London slums.

“He said ‘We’ll never have a family dinner like this again. We should be out ministering.’ That’s the foundation of the Christmas dinner,” Cynthia said.   


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