Christmas meal available at Zion
December 23, 2022
Enjoy a free Christmas dinner Sunday, with good food, good company and a likely visit from the jolly old elf himself.
Everyone is invited to enjoy a free sit-down or pickup meal from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church in Cloquet on Christmas Day, courtesy of the Carlton County Disabled American Veterans. The only deliveries will be to Larson Commons and Aspen Arms, which have their own signup sheets.
This year’s meal is being held in memory of Dave Johnson, who passed away in January. The well-known Cloquet businessman and former city councilor was a big volunteer as well. He organized, solicited donations for, and ran the free community Christmas dinner at Zion for 27 years, feeding more than 500 people every Dec. 25.
Two years ago, Dave and Rosa’s son, Raffy, and the Carlton County DAV took the helm, but Dave and the rest of the family remained a big part of the day. Standing in the kitchen at Zion Lutheran in November, Raffy said his dad is very much still there — literally.
“He’s right over there,” he said, gesturing at the columbarium not far from the church entrance. “When I walk down the stairs, I can picture him telling me, ‘those stairs are rough.’”
Dave and Rosa Johnson youngest daughter, Vittoria, said their dad grew up in the kitchen at Zion, feeding and serving people.
“His mom, Agnes, would sit and roll meatballs with all the other older ladies and he would be the only guy,” Vittoria said. “It was his happy place. He loved to serve. We never experienced being hungry, but my mom did, so did many others. He filled in all the funding when needed, and he left four years of funding when he passed.”
When Dave died, his family asked for memorials to go to the community Christmas meal. Dave had left enough funds for four years worth of meals. Adding in all the donations, they have funds to last until the 40th annual meal (this year is the 29th), Vittoria said.
The DAV and its volunteers now make two giant community meals each year: one on Thanksgiving Day and the other at Christmas. It was turkey with all the fixings on Thanksgiving. The Christmas meal will feature ham, meatballs, mashed potatoes, vegetables, pie, salad and even some hors d'oeuvres. A number of local businesses, nonprofits and individuals contribute to the cause.
The Christmas meal is for sit-down or carryout meals only. All are invited to come and break bread together.
Raffy said people don’t have to meet any qualifications to come and eat. The meal is for everyone.
“Don’t be afraid to take advantage of this, whether it’s for company, convenience, need, whatever,” he said. “It’s why we do it. If the people don’t come, there’s no point in doing it.”
Contact the DAV at 218-269-2193 to volunteer or donate, or if you have questions.