Steve and Claudia Burns drove from Pleasant Hill to midtown Kansas City to stand in a long line of volunteers and load up their car with heavy bags of boxed turkey dinners. Then they headed to Independence to deliver food to four addresses.
They were two of more than 100 drivers who shared the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas Dinner with more than 900 shut-in people. Inside the agency’s Linwood Boulevard headquarters, dozens more volunteers helped serve several hundred people who made their way to the building.
“It gives you a better appreciation for Christmas when you realize how some people struggle every day just to get by,” Steve Burns said. “It gives you a better perspective when you have everything and more that you need.”
Another volunteer, Dennis Sutter, of Kansas City, Kan., was joined by his daughter, Andi Sutter, who was in town from Jacksonville, Fla. This was their second year to volunteer after Andi “outreached it” to find an opportunity to give time on Christmas.
“They do a great job organizing this,” Dennis Sutter said. “It’s a good thing.”
Jane Sander, the Salvation Army’s volunteer director in Kansas City, said the agency enjoys so many volunteers that it turns away many would-be helpers. That’s partly because of loyal volunteers like the Bossert family of Overland Park.
“We’ve been doing it for 36 years,” said Judy Bossert. “It started when the kids were little and my husband, John, said he wanted to do more than what we were doing for Christmas. Back when we started, there weren’t so many volunteers. Now it’s such a blessing.”
This year Judy and John Bossert were joined by six other family members, keeping the tradition alive.
“We had volunteers here at 5:30 a.m. to start on the gravy,” said Amos Shiels, a captain in the Salvation Army’s Kansas and Western Missouri division. “It’s wonderful.”
One of the midtown diners, John Maier, said he usually lives “on Wyandotte.” He said he has made it to the Christmas dinner quite a few times, drawn by the hot meal. Each year, he said, “it’s all good.”
Twenty blocks north of the Salvation Army headquarters, James Rush expressed gratitude for another large outpouring of volunteers. He’d been waiting for a bus at 10th and Main streets when a caravan of church-sponsored vehicles drove up, ladened with coats, gloves, socks and food.
Rush said he’d been “bouncing from place to place” and was overcome with gratitude when a volunteer from Morningstar Missionary Baptist Church invited him to its mobile clothing and food bank.
“God is good for all these people to do something like this,” the 36-year-old man said. “They could be home enjoying the warmth of their own houses instead of out in the cold helping the less fortunate.”
Rush, who was on his way to visit his children in south Kansas City, said he received a warm coat, boots, socks and gloves as well as a midday meal from that group of volunteers, who came from three churches.
The Rev. John Miles of the Morningstar church said this was the ninth year that members of his congregation had taken to the streets to deliver Christmas Day food and clothing. This year his church was joined by Swope Parkway United Christian Church and Paseo Baptist Church on the caravan.
“We expect to give away 400, maybe 500, coats this year,” Miles said. “We also have about 4,000 pairs of socks to give away.”
After its first stop near the downtown bus stop, the church caravan moved on to an apartment complex near the downtown airport, a site known for transient and indigent lodging. From there it was headed to a homeless campsite on Front Street near the Missouri River, then to the bus station on the east side of downtown before ending at a group home for women in the urban core.
“This is our effort to make a difference in the lives of homeless persons who live among us,” Miles said. “This is our ministry. It’s about reaching out to others.”