In 2008, the First Baptist Church of Benton started hosting a free Christmas dinner for the community, held on Christmas Day. The first year about 150 meals were served. Each year additional people heard about and joined the celebration, enjoying a full traditional menu with holiday music in a colorful, welcoming setting. By 2019 the count had risen to 450 meals. The serving line meal always includes turkey, ham, mashed potatoes with gravy, dressing, sweet potatoes, green beans, rolls, — and then, to top it off, there is a table full of delicious home-made desserts.
But then, Covid hit, and, as a result, there was no meal in 2020. In 2021, the tornadoes hit and the gymnasium became a distribution center full of clothes, food, beds, diapers, water, everything. It was unusable for the meal. The disaster caused much pain and confusion, and disruption. The church didn’t know what to do about the meal but everything was already purchased and the congregation definitely wanted to serve it. At the last minute, the church was allowed to use the cafeteria at Benton Elementary School across the street. It went well, but the attendance was understandably down.