Free Christmas meals in Grass Valley offer sense of community | TheUnion.com

Free Christmas meals in Grass Valley offer sense of community

Grass Valley was the place to be this Christmas for anyone who might be feeling alone or depressed during the holidays — or who simply was hungry.

Turkey and ham with all the trimmings, including mashed and sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce and plenty of desserts, were on tap at both Shepherd's Heart Church, serving at the Banner Grange, and at Divine Spark's meal.

Divine Spark volunteers served food at the Grass Valley Elks Lodge on South School Street from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with live music, free hugs, warm clothing and other gifts as well.

"I'm just grateful to the community that has donated and that has volunteered and shared their talents to make this such a successful event," said Divine Spark director Shirley Kinghorn.

In particular, Kinghorn said, she wanted to give a "big, huge, shout-out" to Briar Patch, which donated 150 pounds of produce and turkeys; Flour Garden, which provided pies; California Organics, which donated 12 organic turkeys; and SPD, which donated $200 worth of produce.

The free meal got off to a slow start, but people began streaming in after officers with Grass Valley and Nevada City's police departments put the word out, Kinghorn said.

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Maria Keyser has organized the kitchen crew for the last six years.

"Shirley contacts me and we go over the food," Keyser said, "She tells me what's coming in and we put the food to use."

Keyser estimated they typically feed about 300 guests, starting work at 7 a.m.

Many of the volunteers for the dinner are part of the Tsi Akim Maidu tribe, she said, adding, "We have so many (people) who donate their time to help for a while."

'This is my family'

This is the third year Shepherd's Heart pastors John and Maria Grimes have provided a Christmas meal at the Banner Grange on McCourtney Road, which is where they hold services on Sundays.

The free event featured plenty of food, live music and a welcoming atmosphere.

"We love to see people have joy on Christmas Day — or any holiday," said Maria Grimes. "We don't want them to be alone."

Maria, who is Greek, said that her family is far away — either in other parts of California or in Europe.

"But this is my family, and I'm so grateful to have family here," she said, adding that the church plans to keep serving a Christmas dinner for "very many years to come."

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.