MORRIS – The free Christmas dinner at Turtle’s Tap in Morris has become a tradition for many, both volunteers and diners alike.
By noon Wednesday more than 70 volunteers and 100 diner’s were actively celebrating Christmas together.
Volunteers, acting as Santa’s helpers, were busy wrapping and delivering gifts to every diner in the restaurant, who were helping themselves to a Christmas dinner buffet.
For 12 years of Aydin Hefford’s life, he has spent Christmas at Turtle’s Tap in Morris after opening his presents from Santa at home.
“It makes me feel good, it’s fun,” Hefford said. “My favorite part is bringing out the presents to everyone, they are so happy no matter what they get.”
He said it’s something he looks forward to every year, and otherwise would be sitting home bored on Christmas Day.
Diners Verneda and George Hall have been going to the meal for several years and said they enjoy the fellowship.
“It’s a wonderful ministry,” Verneda said. “Our family doesn’t live around here, so this gives us somewhere to go.”
Kevin “Turtle” Krople has been hosting the annual free Christmas Day dinner and handing out presents for the past 17 years.
“One of the main things I stress to everyone is that it’s as much for the people who donate their time working as it is for the people who come here to eat,” Krople said.
The event is paid for by donations to the Turtle fountain all year long, and donations given on Christmas Day.
Krople said while the meal is free, the restaurant does put out a donation box and many people leave $20 or $50.
He said the amount of money collected shows it isn’t just for those less fortunate, but also for those who just don’t want to be alone at Christmas.
“We are able to do this because of the donations all year,” Krople said. “Luckily that includes individuals who fork out a couple hundred dollars without us asking.”
People donate not only money but also the wrapping paper and gift bags that are used to make sure everyone who comes in the door goes home with a gift.
Krople said he plans to continue the annual event next year.