Cooking the holiday meals is no big deal for either Lloyd McGinnis or LeeAnn Adams.
So it is natural for them to volunteer to cook for the holiday meals in the area.
At 95, McGinnis took over the cooking when his wife became too ill to do it any more.
After 30 years he is still going strong, cooking breakfast Sunday mornings and the holiday meals for the VFW Post 4061 in Canon City.
“I (learned how to cook) by doing it,” he said. “I (also) read a lot of cookbooks.”
Preparation for the big meals begin around 3:30 a.m. Monday morning before Christmas and continue until the big day while the meals are served.
As part of his duties, he and two others cook the turkeys, but he makes the dressing and the gravy.
“I chop my onions and celery and cook it in the broth then use the broth for the dressing,” McGinnis said.
Born in Utleyville, he attended school then moved to Arkansas with his family. In 1938, McGinnis moved to Canon City, where he worked in the timber industry.
Along the way, he served in the Navy from 1943 to 1945 in the Pacific Ocean on an aircraft carrier during World War II.
In 1964, he joined the VFW Post 4061 and volunteers as a trustee and with Bingo.
After working in the timber industry, he learned about the job opportunity at the Colorado Department of Corrections.
“I needed a job and put in my application and went to work (in 1959),” he said. “I worked there 20 years (then) I retired as a captain in Cellhouse 3 in 1979. I enjoyed my work.”
When he retired, he worked for Fremont Construction for 10 years. That’s when his wife, Julia, became ill.
But cooking has been one of his greatest pleasures.
“I enjoy cooking the holiday meals very much,” McGinnis said. “I like to see people eat.”
On the other hand, Adams learned about Mercy Today Ministries offering weekly meals more than a decade ago.
“(Pastor Sheila Rollins) asked us why we were there,” she said. “I told her I got laid off from a preschool from where I was cooking. I’m a bookkeeper so I asked God why am I cooking and he told me soup kitchen.”
At that point, she began cooking and assisting Becky Rollins for the noon meal on Tuesdays every week.
“We take turns,” Adams said. “We each have our specials. Mine is putting together whatever is donated and making a meal out of that.”
Prior to the big day, she and Rollins began preparation on the traditional meal, cooking turkeys and whatever can be fixed in advance.
Born in Long Beach, Calif., Adams visited her brother in Colorado on vacation every year.
“I just love the mountains,” she said.
When construction took a nosedive in California, she and her husband decided to move to Colorado to be closer to her brother. When construction took a nosedive in California, they decided to move to Colorado to be closer to her brother.
Since then, she has volunteered in various organizations, but it’s cooking for Mercy Today that brings her joy.
“I love it,” Adams said. “It’s the best day of the week.”
While the holidays are a time to spend with family, it also can be a heartbreaking, lonely time. Not everyone can afford to buy presents or cook a big traditional meal. But there are many organizations to help.
In Pueblo, the Salvation Army collected 21,000 toys to help 4,500 children in the county last year.
“We are expecting more this year,” said Salvation Army Development Director Rose Mertz. “We started taking applications in the middle of October. A lot of people that are working don’t have enough money for Christmas.”
After collecting the toys, volunteers will take them and bundle them up, according to the children’s wishes in each family. In conjunction, the families will receive wrapping paper, cards and the gifts to wrap for their children.
In the meantime, the center provides emergency food boxes for families who are struggling.
“We’re seeing a bigger need for everything,” Mertz said. “We serve a hot meal every day for our people. A lot of times, it’s people who run out of resources in the middle of the month. Our numbers get bigger from the 15th until the end of the month. They just sign in. There’s no question. If you’re hungry, we feed you.”
In addition, Salvation Army provides the Red Kettles, which are set up in 21 locations in the area.
“If everybody put a dollar in the kettle in this county, we’d have (more than) $160,000,” Mertz said.
In Canon City, Loaves & Fishes Ministries Executive Director DeeDee Clement said they expected around 1,200 families to register for the Christmas meals this year.
“That equals about 2,000 meals,” she said. “That’s pretty close to what we did last year.”
To offset the expenses of buying the food, she said the center is asking for a donation to help, which the families said they are excited to do. The whole community is coming together to meet a need, she said.
“It’s not just us handing out food,” Clement said.
In the past year, Loaves & Fishes 1,438 families registered for food assistance.
“Of the 1,438 families, 290 of them are brand new, never having to receive assistance (before),” Clement said. “Another thing to remember sometimes we think folks getting food from our food bank have no income. That is not true. In fact, most of the folks who come to our food bank actually are employed or have some type of income coming in and probably around 50 percent receive food stamps, but it’s just not enough to make the ends meet. Generally food stamps run out after three weeks. So it’s that last week families are struggling.
On the other hand, Mercy Today Ministries was closed for two months when it moved from one location to another.
“When we reopened, we started (serving meals to) 100 people,” said Pastor Sheilah Rollins. “Since then, we’ve seen 30 to 40 more guests. That’s 15 to 20 percent increase since last summer.”
Mercy Today also provides food once a week for its clients, who are struggling in this economy.
“This year, the Marines’ Toys for Tots are taking on the Children’s Toy House,” Clement said. “We’re still working with them. We’ll still collect toys, but the Marines have the need as far as putting all that together.”
Also, the county has seen a need to purchase more toys for children over the past few years.
This year, the Royal Gorge Detachment of the Marine Corps League are collecting toys through its annual Toys for Tots campaign.
Coordinator Carl Clink said toys are needed for children ranging in ages from infant to 16. Toys can be anything from dolls to trucks, from electronic games to gift cards.
“Without the public support for donating toys, none of this can happen,” Clink said. “We rely on the generosity of the people of our county to help us collect the toys we need for children at Christmas. Our motto is every child deserves a little Christmas.”
The idea originally began with Marine Corps Maj. Bill Hendricks, who established theToys for Tots in Los Angeles, Calif., where he collected 5,000 toys the Christmas of 1947. The next year, the United States Marine Corps took over the Toys for Tots campaign and expanded it across the nation. Along the way, Walt Disney designed the train logo for the Toys for Tots poster, which has been used for many years.