FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA) — Each year, Evangel Temple in Fort Smith hosts a Christmas lunch aimed at feeding the homeless community. The church has been doing it for 31 years.
“They know that we are giving back during this Christmas season, and we truly believe that Christmas is about Christ,” said Ryan Rose, Evangel’s associate pastor. “There’s a lot of people who didn’t go to a Christmas party this year, a lot of people who aren’t spending Christmas with family, a lot of people not celebrating.”
Rose said around 300 people came and enjoyed a traditional Christmas meal this year. The lunch was hosted in the church’s gymnasium, where kids also got to meet Santa Clause. He sat in a chair near the front and talked to nearly 50 kids.
“[Since they already got their presents,] we talked about what they got,” Clause, the notable toy deliverer from the North Pole, said. “It’s just a joy to see the joy of a child and the hope in their eyes.”
Dennis Partin took over the ministry that operates the Christmas lunch, and he said he’s noticed a bigger need in the Fort Smith community. He said food is always something that can feed people’s spirits and bodies.
“There’s a great need, and so we try to fill that void,” Partin said.
Rose said the church does community lunches often, but the Christmas lunch is one of the bigger events for Evangel. He said he wants folks to take two things from the day: hope and worth.
“Food comes to them, seconds come to them, we refill their plates, bring dessert—whatever they need,” Rose said. “We want them to know they’re cared about.”