On Christmas Day in Cortez, hundreds of cars and trucks lined up for free holiday meals and presents at the Montezuma County annex.
By 11:50 a.m., 271 meals has been served, including 85 deliveries, said organizer Jean Schwien.
“Everyone’s in a cheerful mood, we’ve been very busy,” she said. “It’s been crazy but fun. To see everyone come together restores your faith in people.”
The 32nd annual Community Christmas Dinner was on track to serve over 400 meals Sunday, a record. In 2021, they served 250 meals.
The community event is put on with collaboration with Hope’s Kitchen of the Methodist Church, the good Samaritan Center, Cortez Salvation Army and others.
Everyone getting a meal received a gift of warm clothing from the Salvation Army.
On the menu was smoked ham, mashed sweet potatoes, potato wedges, salad, rolls, green beans, cranberry sauce and pie.
The salad and potatoes are sourced locally from Southwest Farm Fresh. The rolls are made by The Farm Bistro, and pies are being provided by the Salvation Army and Dunton Hot Springs.
Fifty volunteers showed up for the effort that took weeks of planning. There were more volunteers than needed, and they were put on the list to help out the good Samaritan Center, who is in need of more help.
The division of volunteer labor was efficient. Orders were taken by one group from the line of cars and walk ups. Drinks and presents were handed out by another volunteer team.
Orders were relayed to kitchen workers, who handed back stacks of meals to runners dressed in Christmas costumes that brought them to the cars.
“We have a good system, it gets smoother every year,” said Schwien, the pastor for the Methodist Church. “We had very generous donations this year and want to let people know how grateful we are.”
A volunteer said community meals bring people back into a more compassionate mind set.
“A man said he has been getting too cynical and this helped him snap out of it,” she said.
Hope’s Kitchen Chef Pat Downey said cooking has been going on the past four days. On Christmas morning, everything was heated up and served up in to-go containers.
“We’re serving up good will,” he said.
Tammy Wilson, of Cortez, is proud of the Cortez tradition serving free meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“I love it, these type of things bring our community together,” she said.