Community Christmas Dinner

Free meal set at Ishpeming Elks Lodge

Volunteers serve at a past Community Christmas Dinner in Ishpeming. The 12th annual Community Christmas Dinner will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Christmas Day at the Ishpeming Elks Lodge, 597 Lakeshore Drive. About 350 pounds of turkey, 80 pounds of ham, 80 pies — 40 apple and 40 pumpkin — cranberries, potatoes, stuffing, gravy and dinner rolls will be prepared. (Courtesy photo)

ISHPEMING — Volunteers are busy preparing for the 12th annual Community Christmas Dinner in Ishpeming to ensure everyone can enjoy a hot meal for the holiday, free of charge.

The event will be held Christmas Day at the Ishpeming Elks Lodge, 597 Lakeshore Drive, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“We will be cooking 350 pounds of turkey, 80 pounds of ham, 80 pies (40 apple and 40 pumpkin), cranberries, potatoes, stuffing, gravy and dinner rolls — all the traditional fixings,” said Dawn Lambert, event coordinator and exalted ruler of the Ishpeming Elks. “We’ll have have coffee, water and milk for beverages. Everyone is welcome to stop by, or they can also have their meals picked up and delivered.”

Lambert said delivery is available for free to residents in western Marquette County including Sawyer, Gwinn, Little Lake, Suomi and Palmer.

This year, the Marquette County Transit Authority is offering free rides to anyone who lives in the Ishpeming area. Anyone in need of a ride to the Community Christmas Dinner should call 906-225-1112 and press 1 for a dispatcher and make reservations by Sunday.

Due to the generosity of community sponsors and the Ishpeming Elks, 610 meals — 139 dine in, 101 takeout and 340 home deliveries and 30 volunteers — were served last year.

In a recent letter to The Mining Journal, event organizers said Globe Printing was particularly helpful in providing placemats, which recognized the event’s sponsors last year. The letter also thanked volunteers.

“We would be remiss in not recognizing the many volunteers who gave up part of their Christmas Day to answer phones, cook, serve, and deliver meals and the Ishpeming Volunteer Fire Department for making sure our banner is hung on the billboard every year, so everyone traveling U.S. 41 can see it,” the letter reads. “The food that was left was donated to the Warming Shelter and the Jansen House to continue the gift of giving.”

By bringing people together, Lambert said the event helps the true spirit of Christmas soar.

“Christmas has become so commercialized,” she said. “By unifying people, bringing them together, that’s what Christmas is really about.”

Dave Aro, who was involved with the Kiwanis Club, worked with the Bell Foundation to first get the Community Christmas Dinner going in 2009, Lambert said.

“The late Ed Niemi was the exalted ruler at the Ishpeming Elks Lodge at the time and was very helpful by allowing us to have the dinner at the Elks,” she said.

Shortly after Aro initiated the event, Lambert got involved by helping write grants for the holiday dinner. Once funding fell through, she started soliciting the community for help.

“We couldn’t do this without our sponsors and this community,” she said.

As a new addition to this year’s event, Lambert said “elves” from the Elks Lodge will visit friends or family members on Christmas Day in need of company.

Those interested in the dinner can call 906-486-6890 between 3 and 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday to sign up for free delivery, take out or dine-in. If anyone’s interested in volunteer, they can either call the number listed above, or show up to the Ishpeming Elks Club between 9:30-10 a.m. on Christmas Day and “we’ll put them to work,” Lambert said.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is