COVID-19 did not stop a Salina tradition. For the 38th year in a row Bill Fekas, along with a dedicated group of volunteers, prepared a free community-wide Christmas dinner.
Bright sunshine set the scene as many people came and went to enjoy the annual Bill Fekas Family Christmas Dinner at the 4H building in Kenwood Park. Though the dinner still took place this year, things were a little different. It was a Christmas dinner to go.
A socially-distanced crowd was already gathered when the doors opened at 11:00. For those who couldn’t make it to the meal, volunteers stayed busy making home deliveries.
Fekas had a plan to keep dinner attendees safe and healthy, while also giving them a great holiday meal with a strict mask mandate that simply read: “No Mask, No Food.” Only one family was allowed to enter at a time, and had to be wearing masks. They picked up their Christmas meal, which included turkey and all the trimming, to then take home and enjoy.
Fekas has been preparing a free community-wide Christmas dinner since the early 1980s. He had a dream in 1982 to prepare and serve a free dinner for anyone who was alone on Christmas Day. Late Salina businessman Dean Evans told him to get the ball rolling and he would pay the bill. That first year there were about 30 people at the event.
Over the years the dinner, which is still free to anyone who wants to attend, has grown exponentially. Fekas, with the help of a small army of volunteers, this year prepared enough food to feed 0ver 4,000 people. Among other things they prepared over 200 turkeys, a half-ton of potatoes, and stuffing made from over 800 loaves of bread.
The goal of the meal is very simple, to put a smile on the face of everyone who attends. Along with a turkey dinner and all the trimmings, each family took home several frozen pizzas compliments of Schwan’s.
While the dinner is free for all who attend, it isn’t free for Fekas. Each year he depends on donations to help make it possible, and struggles to come close to breaking even.
Those who want to send a check can mail it to:
Bill Fekas Family Christmas Dinner
PO Box 2173
Salina, Kansas 67401