Janice Armentrout’s family gave her a new oven last year.
She put it to good use.
“I enjoyed making the pies,” she said. “It was fun because I could put five in a at time.”
Mrs. Armentrout, her daughter and a tight group of volunteers from St. Joseph Parish in Salisbury prepared free Christmas dinners for 75 people affected by the pandemic.
They cooked turkeys and hams, baked pumpkin pies and procured sumptuous side dishes.
Volunteers helped assemble the meals and delivered them to people around Salisbury who are separated from friends and family due to the pandemic.
“You have to give to the poor and you have to feed the hungry and you have to love your neighbor,” said Mrs. Armentrout.
It all started when Father Michael Murphy, pastor of St. Joseph Parish and of St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Wien, suggested doing something to brighten Christmas for people who are homebound or in need.
“They were going to be at home by themselves,” said Mrs. Armentrout. “He thought that maybe somebody could cook a dinner and take it to them.”
He shared the idea with the parish bookkeeper, Donece Henke, who happens to be one of Mrs. Armentrout’s friends.
“She mentioned to me that Father would like to have a dinner for people in town,” said Mrs. Armentrout. “I said yes, I’d be more than interested.”
The women had already prepared Christmas meals together in years past.
Mrs. Armentrout and her husband William, now deceased, lost their son in a car accident about 30 years ago.
“And instead of having Christmas with him, we decided to serve Christmas,” she recalled.
Their pastor let them use the kitchen and cafeteria at St. Joseph School.
“We cooked over there and served over there and we asked people to come and eat with us there as a group,” Mrs. Armentrout recalled.
The tradition continued for 11 years, with a growing circle of volunteers and diners.
“So I knew we could do it,” she said.
Mrs. Armentrout carried on with it after her husband died in 1998, until her own heart attack took her out of commission for a while in 2002.
“A lot of help”
This year, Mrs. Armentrout and Mrs. Henke started asking around.
“We got the turkeys donated,” she said. “Salisbury Meat Market donated the hams. We got the potatoes donated. We got the corn and the green beans donated. We got the bread for the dressing donated. We got the salad donated.”
One of Mrs. Armentrout’s sons grew pumpkins last year. She had already used some to make pie filling this fall.
Her daughter Kathleen came down from Des Moines to help her make 13 pies and roast the four turkeys.
They, Mrs. Henke and her husband Bob prepared the rest of the food and divvied it up for delivery.
Volunteers brought deviled eggs and delivered the meals — mostly one and two at a time.
“We had a lot of help,” said Mrs. Armentrout. “The Altar Sodality and the parish had the cartons that we put the food in.”
“The main thing”
Mrs. Armentrout grew up in Nebraska, but her husband was a Salisbury native. He and all his siblings went to St. Joseph School.
Accordingly, the couple sent all seven of their children to the school.
“So I just call this home,” she said of the town. “It feels like home.”
One of their grandchildren, Rev. Mr. Benjamin Armentrout, is a transitional deacon and hopes to be ordained a priest this spring.
Toward that end, Mrs. Armentrout believes the best way for families to promote vocations in the Church is by example.
“That’s the main thing,” she said. “The way they act, and their attitude about their church duties.”
Mrs. Armentrout feels fortunate about many things.
“I’m 81,” she said. “I’m so thankful that I’m able to do these things.”
She’s praying for an end to the pandemic so everyone can go back to Mass and start getting together with families.
“We pray for peace and for a cure to this COVID,” she said. “And hopefully, prayerfully, we won’t have to do this again next Christmas.”