Christmas came early for several hundred area residents who flocked to the Pekin Township office to have a warm Christmas dinner and a little camaraderie.

Shut-ins, low income individuals and homeless people alike often spend the Christmas holiday alone because their families are out of town or they have lost their connection to family and friends for one reason or another.

The atmosphere was cheery Friday as people dined on ham, green beans, yams, a roll and apple pie.

“It’s so nice to come here,” said Charlotte Ackerman as she and her husband, James, ate their dinners. “People are so nice. You always have people waiting on you.”

Ackerman said she and her husband have been coming to the township for Christmas dinner for several years. It is a program, she said, that Pekin needs.

“I think it is very important to people,” she said. “If not for this, some of these people would not have any food at all. ... Some people don’t have anywhere to go.”

Pekin Township Supervisor Janet Homerin said that 160 shut-ins had a Christmas meal delivered. The township dining hall homes 125. People were coming and going from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Several hundred people were served, though final numbers are not yet in. 

The food is donated or paid for through business or private donations. Township tax funds are not used at all for the meal.

Putting together a meal for so many takes a lot of help. 

Bob Schroeder, a volunteer, helped serve ham in the food line and said he has helped with the dinner for seven years. His bright, cheery smile greeted the Christmas crowd.

“It’s just important,” he said of his volunteer efforts. “It’s about giving back to the community.”

Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin