Spring flowers decorated the tables, steam rose from trays of food, and the sweet smell of cakes wafted through the air when retired Jeep factory worker Fred Laws and his son made their way into West Toledo’s Christ the King School for their Easter dinner together.
The older Mr. Laws waited in line for the early meal while his son, Dennis Laws, walked to the front and brought back a slice of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream — something to hold him over before the actual feast that has been prepared every year at Christ the King for more than two decades.
“My dad’s friend had told him about this years ago, and I came one year because I didn’t have anywhere to go for the holiday, but today we came together for Easter,” the younger Mr. Laws said. “Everyone is very friendly, the food is really good, and it’s all very nice with the flowers and settings, so we really like it.”
On the menu: traditional Easter ham, chicken, vegetables, potatoes, soups, macaroni and cheese, salads, and a plethora of deserts.
More than 200 people came to eat at Christ the King’s free dinner, a counterpart to its annual Thanksgiving meal. Everyone is invited, organizers said: the needy, those who are alone, or anyone else.
John Tarpy, a volunteer greeting people outside, and his son, Ryan, have made a family tradition of helping at the event for more than 20 years.
“My wife is a nurse, and she had to work a 12-hour shift one year [on Easter] and we decided to come here, my son and I,” said Mr. Tarpy, who at the time lived in West Toledo but has since moved to Sylvania,
“Even since we have moved, we still come back here,” he said. “The people are friendly, and I know some of them are homeless and living at the Cherry Street Mission, and now I am on a first-name basis with a lot of them because I see them.”
Mr. Tarpy tried to stop his son at the entrance to speak for a moment, but he instead dashed away with barely a word to fetch another tray of macaroni and cheese for the crowd.
Kathryn Nelson, a Christ the King parishioner, helped people with drinks Sunday while her husband helped fill nearly 100 bags of groceries for families to take home.
“This is my first time,” Ms. Nelson said, just after bringing a glass of fruit punch to an elderly man who arrived using a walker.
“We are impressed with how lovely it is, and we just love Chirst the King,” she added.
Brian Smith, the church’s facilities manager, said in the dinner’s early years, more volunteers than diners showed up. But more recently the crowd has swelled to more than 400, he said.
“We try to make it as homey as we can with the flowers and generally a lot of parishioners come to volunteer,” Mr. Smith said.
The Rev. Bill Rose, Christ the King’s pastor, said the church used to pick people up at the Cherry Street Mission or other homeless shelters with buses.
“We sold the buses because it was a cost,” Father Rose said.