When she observed that homeless and homebound elderly in her community were overlooked on Christmas, Sue Ross of Casa Grande, Arizona, took it upon herself to start a program to feed them.
Since 1994 she has baked, cooked and served meals on
Christmas. She is backed by many volunteers, including her husband Paul, and the support of local food stores and Seeds of Hope a local nonprofit agency focused on breaking the cycle of poverty and strengthening communities.
"Everyone always talks about Christmas being for children, but this is for Grandma or Grandpa or aunts and uncles who have no one. There's more than we know," says Sue, who is a Taste of Home field editor.
Last year, in addition to serving about 60 people at their host site, Calvary Southern Baptist Church, the volunteers delivered 126 meals to the homebound. People coming to the church for Christmas dinner also received a sack lunch to take with them and a gift-wrapped box of personal and hygienic items.
The dinner typically includes turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, corn, cranberry sauce, rolls, coleslaw and pie.
Sue asks for monetary contributions for food from local stores.
A Mormon church in the area supplies 30 pies, and volunteers from other churches make cookies.
And everything is homemade.
"It comes from the heart when you make it yourself, and it tastes so much better than when you buy it semi-prepared." Sue says. "I'm from Iowa and my hometown has a large Amish population, so I know how much those people care and I think some of that rubbed off on me."
Refusing to serve instant mashed potatoes, Sue peeled 100 pounds of potatoes the first six years of the program. She has since passed potato duty to another volunteer.
The day would not run so smoothly if it were not for those dedicated volunteers, she says.
"A lot of kids come with their parents to help out," Sue notes. "We serve family-style, so we like to have the teenagers serve at the tables."
"I really look forward to this tradition," Sue adds. "I start counting down the days until Christmas at 364!"
Among the treats Sue enjoys sharing are Microwave Marshmallow Fudge, Sue's Caramel Corn and Pecan Pie Bars.
If you or a group you belong to cooks for a charitable, spiritual or other purpose, we'd love to hear from you. Submit your story