Ashland prepares for annual community dinner

Step into the Historic Ashland Armory on Saturday afternoon and you'll likely see city officials, homeless people and students sitting at the same table, eating Christmas dinner.

More than 1,000 people are expected to attend the 31st annual Ashland Christmas Dinner, sponsored by Ashland Christian Fellowship, organizer Steve Christenson said.

"We usually see everyone from the mayor of Ashland to the street person who showed up at the food bank and saw a poster," he said.

"We also have a lot of families who join the service crews as part of a family reunion.

"This is about breaking down the barriers and saying, 'Hey, we're all here. Let's get along. It's Christmas.' "

The free gathering is from noon to 4 p.m., but those who want to ensure they receive all menu options should arrive before 2:30 p.m., Christenson said.

The armory is located on the corner of Oak and B streets.

A pair who organized a Thanksgiving dinner for homeless people in Ashland was planning to hold a similar event on Christmas before it learned about the armory event, said Nicole Vilencia, who organized the Thanksgiving dinner with her housemate Thomas Titus.

"Unlike Thanksgiving, where there was a need for something, there really was not a need to duplicate the event for Christmas in Ashland," she said.

Instead of holding another Ashland event, the group has given its donated food and the approximately $100 it raised to a free Christmas dinner in Medford called Feed the Valley.

"Luckily, the people that were donating were OK with everything just transferring over to there," Vilencia said. "It's another community event and they needed the donations."

The fifth annual dinner, an all-ages event, will be from 4 to 9 p.m. at Kids Unlimited, 821 N. Riverside Ave.

Organizer Travis Sprague is still seeking donated turkeys, hams and pies for the event, as well as volunteers. He's expecting to feed 500 people.

"I want to feed more people than ever before, because I feel the need is greater," he said.

The event also will feature a gingerbread-making station and gifts for children.

People can drop off donations at Aaron's Furniture, 500 E. Fourth St., Medford. For more information, contact Sprague at 541-285-0500 or

About 180 people are signed up to help at the Ashland event, and organizers said Tuesday they don't need any more volunteers. Organizers also have enough food donations but will accept monetary donations at the event, to help cover the $3,500 cost, Christenson said.

Volunteers will bring people to the feast who don't have transportation and will also deliver meals to the homebound.

"I don't care if they're in a nursing home and they're already getting a meal — if they want a meal from us we will send them one," Christenson said.

To schedule a ride or a delivery, call Christenson at 541-326-6526.

Both events will feature traditional Christmas dinners, with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls and pie.

The events are about more than the food — they're about coming together as a community, Vilencia said.

"We are a community and we should be getting together and helping each other," she said. "And sometimes helping just means hanging out."

Hannah Guzik is a reporter at the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 541-708-1158 or

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