Caring for each other with a feast

One reason the Grinch couldn't steal Christmas is that he couldn't take away the spirit of community, of people watching out and caring for each other.

And Dr. Seuss's classic book ends with a big community celebration: a feast of roast beast.

My summer camp counselor said, "You can't have a party without a cake." And I think you can't have a holiday without a feast.

But lots of grinches may be ruining people's Christmas dinners this year: unemployment, loneliness or infirmity.

If a grinch is trying to steal your roast beast, I have great news: St. Stephen's Lutheran Church is preparing a free "Spirit of Christmas Dinner" for anyone who can't cook their own holiday meal.

The "Spirit of Christmas Dinner" will include turkey and all the trimmings. It will be served 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 25 at St. Stephen's Lutheran, on St. Stephen's Church Road off N.C. 49, east of Mount Pleasant.

Church member Joy Pinto is organizing it. She was worried that Christmas might lose some of its meaning for folks who were struggling with various reasons for not enjoying a big, special Christmas dinner. Along with people who can't afford to prepare one, some have physical limitations. Others may be alone for the holiday. Joy wants to be sure they all have a place they can go to nourish their bodies and souls.

A lot of work goes into preparing for the event. Joy hopes other churches and groups will get involved. Already, the women from Mount Olive Lutheran have taken charge of the sweet potatoes, and parents from its preschool have volunteered to help.

Joy Pinto said her biggest challenge now is getting the word out about the dinner, which she plans to make an annual event. She asks only that folks who plan to attend call the church at 704-279-2768 to let her know.

Joy is also looking for volunteers to help cook and serve, and donations are always appreciated. If you'd like to help in any way with the Spirit of Christmas Dinner, call the church or e-mail Joy Pinto at

She said she had been inspired by Jimmy Murphey - who for years fed hundreds at his Concord home on Christmas Day, then thousands at larger locations - and always wanted to help him.

Hosting this event is what she calls "sort of a selfish way to do good deeds on Christmas, but stay close to home."

Understanding how much time and effort she's invested in feeding people from eastern Cabarrus, southern Rowan and west Stanly counties on Christmas, Joy cannot rightly be called selfish. She's taking on the Grinch, and she's going to win.