The chilled air that rushed through the door of the dining hall at Thomas Temple Church of God in Christ was a stark contrast to the warmth within where a few dozen people gathered to provide and partake in a free holiday meal.
For the fourth year, the church at Ashland Avenue and West Bancroft Street provided a home-cooked meal for those in need on Christmas Day.
As in past years, the church has relied on generous donations from the community to make the meal a reality. But unlike years past, Pastor Susan Coleman said the crowd was larger than before.
"We get a larger crowd each year. People know we don't cook out of the can, it's home cooked," she said. "We've got plenty of food."
This year, although the meal was to be served between 1 and 3 p.m., some people started showing up at noon. So Pastor Coleman let them in to start eating.
"We'll let you take it home. We'll let you wrap it up," Pastor Coleman said to the crowd.
"All right," Mike Nicholes replied.
Mr. Nicholes has been going to the church for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals since they started being offered four years ago. In the beginning, it was a dine-in only format, but when Pastor Coleman noticed some recipients stashing food in plastic bags and other containers, she decided to continue in the spirit of giving.
"Go ahead, take it home," she said. "Tell the folks and they will wrap it up in a piece of foil paper."
The faces of some of those gathered for the meal beamed with smiles.
The Rev. Walter Thompson, pastor at the Thomas Temple Church location in Sandusky, made the trip early yesterday morning to help out. He had heard about its success in past years but wanted to experience it himself.
Terrance Buch was hungry yesterday morning and mentioned it to a friend. That friend told him about the meal and dropped him off.
"I was blessed that I had somewhere to get a meal on Christmas Day," Mr. Buch said. "I really didn't know where I was going to eat. It was a real spiritual thing that I had somewhere to go."
Mr. Buch said the warmth in the room where the food was being served was more than just temperature.
"You could feel it. There was no controversy," he said.
As he hobbled toward the door of the church - he was on crutches from an injury last week when he slipped on the ice - Mr. Buch was no longer hungry. "I'm stuffed," he said with a smile.
Participating in yesterday's meal was a gift of giving and receiving for local attorney Paul Geller.
He has helped donate food for the meal each year; this year he provided the meat.
"Where there's a need, you've got to do it," he said. "This is my Christmas gift to myself. Look at the smiling faces, look at the people you meet. There is no one false here."
Mr. Geller delighted in the way in which those gathered did not harp on the difficulties of their life circumstances such as having their gas turned off, facing foreclosure, or being unemployed.
"There is a revival of the spirit that I feel this year," he said.
That giving spirit carried through to Disha Brooks, 15, who helped serve meals. Pastor Coleman is the teen's grandmother.
"It's a real good experience for me to feed the people who need to eat," she said. "I feel that I should be the one to help, because you never know who will need your help."
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