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Despite Donor’s Passing, the “Christmas Dinner for Those Alone” Lives On

After three decades of serving Christmas dinner to Springfield residents, the annual Christmas Dinner for Those Alone has become a staple of the holiday season. KSMU’s Emma Wilson brings us the history of this tradition, and the story of the man who made it all possible.

The idea for the Christmas Dinner at First and Calvary Presbyterian Church actually took flight on an airplane.Dr. F.T. "Hogan" H'Doubler Jr., a Springfield physician and member of First and Calvary, and Gary Ellison, also a member of that church, were chatting on a flight back from Chicago. H’Doubler pointed out that it is particularly difficult for people to be alone around Christmas time, since there are constant reminders of tradition and family around the holidays. Ellison remembers that conversation well.

“And he said, ‘If our church would have a big Christmas dinner for anybody who doesn’t have any family—no charge, no strings attached, good food, fellowship, fun, music—and offer this at no charge to the community, it would really serve a great service.’ So we started [the dinner] 29 years ago. He gave the initial financial donation.”

But for all those years, H’Doubler kept his involvement with the event anonymous. For the first several years, H’Doubler paid for the main course and other church members chipped in for the sides and desert. Just a few weeks ago, F.T. H’Doubler passed away and his family gave Ellison permission to share the story. Ellison says that the first year they held the Christmas dinner they hosted between two and three hundred guests and the number has grown steadily ever since. This year, they are reaching out to college students, in particular, who may be far from their families and can’t get home for Christmas.

“It’s geared for people who are alone. And you don’t have to be alone on Christmas.”

Ellison says that while the dinner is free, it is necessary to call in a reservation, so, as he says, “they know how many turkeys to smoke.” But the general message is “the more the merrier.”

“There’s always someone there to talk with. And somebody’s playing the piano. I’ll probably take a turn or two at that this year. They can stay as long as they want, eat as much as they want, and we’re glad to have them!”

There will be three different dinner times at First and Calvary on Christmas Day. To place a reservation for the dinner you can call 885-9620.

For KSMU News, I’m Emma Wilson