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DAV offers free Christmas dinner

Veterans don’t let a little thing like a closed dining hall stop one of the biggest community meals of the year.

When the Carlton County Disabled American Veterans chapter learned that the usual site of the annual Christmas dinner in Cloquet was a no-go because of the pandemic, they sprang into action. Instead of just cooking the annual meal, the DAV is now running it and hosting it from a new base of operations at the Cloquet VFW, 210 Arch Street.

Everyone is invited to enjoy a free sit-down or pickup meal from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Christmas Day. Call Zion at 218-879-4647 to sign up for curbside pickup or to volunteer by noon Thursday, Dec. 23. People coming in to dine don’t need to sign up in advance. There will also be limited delivery to senior high-rise buildings, which will have their own signup sheets.

DAV treasurer and master meal organizer Raffy Johnson has been part of the Christmas meals at Zion Lutheran Church since his father, Dave Johnson, and other members at Zion decided to host a community Christmas meal close to 28 years ago.

Eventually it got so big the meal became its own organization, although the church still played a major role. Many individuals and businesses donated money, food and time each year to help make it happen, but Dave Johnson was always there, pulling the strings, asking for donations, making a list and checking it twice.

Now his son is filling Dave’s former role, after growing up with his family serving others every Christmas, and going on to serve his country in the Army National Guard for 24-plus years, including two tours in the Middle East.

“I think it’s a big job, and thank goodness he has lots of good helpers with the DAV, VFW, Legion and auxiliaries,” Dave said from home on Tuesday. “I’m sure proud of him.”

Dave said another Johnson generation is on the job as well: Raffy’s 15-year-old son, Alex, has been helping him out the past few years. Zion Lutheran Church is still helping out as well, by handling all the advance phone calls and orders. Questions? Call Zion at 218-879-4647.