Thousands served hot meals thanks to volunteers this Christmas

- Serving meals to people on Christmas might be an age-old tradition, passed down by families from generation to generation--but Union Gospel Mission in Minneapolis is putting a new twist on the annual gathering.

Volunteers here serve people at their table, acting as waiters instead of creating the traditional buffet line used at many other churches and shelters this holiday season.

"It’s this idea of hospitality," said Josh Windham, one of the people in charge of the massive effort. "We want to make sure we’re serving people like they were at a restaurant, or even at their own home. Because in a lot of ways we are family, we are home to so many people here in this community."

And despite the best efforts of Windham and other organizers, it's the volunteers that make the whole operation run smoothly. Despite the record low temperatures outside, people like John Plummer and his daughter showed up en masse to help feed more than 1,200 people--dedicating their Christmas to serving others.

"We all have needs in our lives, so it’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to give back to those in need," Plummer said. "Sometimes you can become so self-absorbed in your own little world. It gives [my daughters] an opportunity to think of others beyond their own sphere of influence."

Though the church's meal might have attracted the most attention, volunteers from across the metro served meals at more than a dozen housing facilities as well, including a meal at the Hamline High Rise that's been going on for more than 20 years.

For those who attend, it's a wonderful service that allows everyone to share in the spirit of Christmas.

"They do a wonderful job," said attendee Michael McCarthy. "If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't get a meal."

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