AUGUSTA — Among the volunteers at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church’s Christmas dinner, there were families with young children, teenagers and retired people.

They served food, cleared tables, sang carols and doled out donated scarves and toiletries in the gift room.

“An incredible array of folks come together to make this happen,” said Liz Burgess, who led the group that organized the annual dinner.

The church began offering a free Christmas meal in 1981.

“As Christians, it’s what we’re called to do, to serve others,” Burgess said. “Early in the history of this congregation, people heard that call and took it seriously and made it happen.”

In recent years about 300 meals have been served annually; about half of those are delivered to homes. On Sunday they served a traditional meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables and pie. Northcenter Foodservice and J.J. Nissen Baking Co. donated much of the food.

Volunteers also provide transportation to and from the church, and organizers encourage people to come in for their meals for the purpose of fellowship and spending time with others, Burgess said.

Many of Augusta resident Daniel Gagne’s relatives are several states away, in Virginia and elsewhere, so he was one person who found company at Prince of Peace on Sunday.

“They always put on a good meal every year,” he said. “We’re appreciative to everybody.”

Ashley Heyer, 13, came to the church with her parents to see friends and have a special meal.

Heyer said she’d already had a great Christmas. “It’s been really good,” she said. “I got an mp3 player for Christmas. And I gave my cat a bunch of catnip. He went wacko.”

Volunteers also sought companionship at the dinner, including Mindy and Todd Jorgensen and their four daughters: Amanda, Talia, Tara and Tessa. The family recently became members of the church after moving here from South Dakota. Without any family nearby, they decided to spend Christmas volunteering, Mindy Jorgensen said.

The girls said they enjoyed talking with the people who came to eat. “They usually appreciate what you do,” Tara said. “It makes you feel good.”

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

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