An outpouring of kindness

Men, women and children receive meals and gifts on Christmas Day

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Volunteers Rueben Muniz, Julia Watts, Robert Hollibaugh and Rick Haag take a moment to pray with one of the attendees at the Refuel Washougal Christmas dinner Sunday. Free meals were served to more than 150 people at the Washougal Community Center. (Photo courtesy of Christina Johnson)

Approximately 160 people turned out for a free Christmas dinner on Sunday at the Washougal Community Center.

The second annual event was organized by Refuel Washougal and Calvary Community Church’s outreach program, which is led by Mike and Michele Gregson.

In addition to being served a hot meal, everyone who attended also received new, wrapped gifts, and the opportunity to pick from a selection of brand new hats, scarves and gloves, as well as hygiene products, baked treats, ceramic angel figurines and Bibles.

“[The guests] all left with smiles, and some even received much needed prayer and fellowship,” Michele Gregson said. “We had live [performances of] Christmas carols, so all could sing along.”

According to volunteer Amy Smith, donations to support the event came from local businesses including Stone N.W. Inc., Discovery Dental, B&B Fish Market, Smitty’s Restaurant and Outlaw Coffee Company, in addition to many contributions from local residents.

More than 100 volunteers helped prepare and serve the meal, decorate the community center and wrap presents.

“Mike and I, along with the entire Calvary Community Church and outreach team want to extend a huge ‘thank you’ to each and every donor and volunteer for helping make this Christmas special for so many,” Michele Gregson said.

Refuel Washougal is a coalition of community leaders that works to help raise awareness and educate the public about the needs of citizens who are unable to provide adequate food for themselves and their families.

Originally called Refuel Fridays, the program started Jan. 2, 2015, as an effort to help feed low-income community members, families in need, the homeless and needy seniors in the Camas-Washougal communities. Refuel Washougal offers a free meal every Friday, from 4 to 6 p.m., at the Washougal Community Center.

Michele Gregson said Refuel Washougal and Calvary intend to continue the tradition of serving a free Christmas dinner in 2017.

“It was so heartwarming to see the community come together and give back in such an amazing way,” she said. “Our team is already working on ideas for next year’s meal and event.”