It can be hard to measure how the Community Fellowship Christmas and Thanksgiving meals impact Hermiston each holiday season.
“I still haven’t done the numbers from Thanksgiving,” said Community Fellowship Dinner secretary Makayla Humphreys.
“It’s been very smooth today,” she added during the Christmas meal, which takes place each year at the high school. “Somehow, everything always works out.”
The dinner served at least 250 people last Christmas. Organizers at the Community Fellowship Dinner organization, which has operated completely on donations in Hermiston since the 1980s, don’t know just yet how many people were served this holiday.
But what cannot be quantified can still be showcased through the stories of guests and volunteers that come from everywhere each year to enjoy and distribute the spread: ham, veggies, gravy, mashed potatoes— and of course, the pie.
It was Judith Raysor’s first time at the Christmas meal, but her fourth year living in Hermiston.
“I like what I see here,” she said. “And it shouldn’t just be for Christmas. We should celebrate just to celebrate.”
Raysor was born in Florida, left for New York City to go to college and raised three children as a single mother before a stint in North Dakota. It may be surprising that she found herself on the dry side of Oregon, but her son asked her to move to Hermiston to help raise her grandchildren.
“God changed everything after that,” she said.
Raysor got a job providing in-home care for an elderly woman in Umatilla, but the house was sold in August of 2018.
From then, she had nowhere to call home. It would be six months before Raysor could secure an apartment in the area.
“Everything I got, people gave me,” she said. “Anybody can be homeless.”
Now, she spends most days working at Desert Rose Ministries. She said Desert Rose served dinner to 60 people on Dec. 19.
For her, the holiday isn’t just about food or presents.
“It’s not about me getting a gift,” she said. “It’s about the love.”
Raysor said that come Thursday, she’ll be back at Desert Rose learning the stories of people who come by for direction, services or just a warm cup of coffee.
Jeannette and Bob O’Brion were enjoying the Community Fellowship Dinner early Wednesday afternoon.
The pair said after life in the military, they settled down in Hermiston 20 years ago to retire as affordably as possible.
“Wherever you hang your hat is home,” Bob said.
Their closest family members are 3,000 miles away, so it’s only natural that they come to enjoy dinner and meet up with friends at the annual holiday dinners.
“They are very generous with the takeouts,” Jeannette added.
Dave Hickox said he didn’t have any plans besides volunteering at the dinner this year, rationing out generous portions of pie for the guests.
After living several years in Madras, he’s home to Hermiston in time for the holidays.
“The dinner hasn’t changed much from when I was volunteering before,” he said.
Meanwhile, Terry and Lila Schlaht enjoyed their Christmas dinner with a few friends.
“We’re very thankful for this,” Lila said.
The pair have lived in Hermiston for 30 years.
“It grows on you,” Terry said.