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Livingstone hosting annual Community Christmas Dinner tonight

By Laurie D. Willis

Livingstone College News Service

SALISBURY – On Thursday when approximately 125 children visit Livingstone College’s School of Hospitality Management & Culinary Arts on Jake Alexander Boulevard, it’s likely their mouths will open wide with excitement.

That’s because the hotel’s lobby has been transformed into a virtual Winter Wonderland, complete with a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, a gingerbread village, play stations where they can make popcorn balls, candied apples and gingerbread cookies and, of course, Santa.

The children won’t know – or frankly care – that the hotel’s lobby has been renovated. But that fact won’t be lost on Livingstone President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr., or on Dr. Vivian Ray, director of the School of Hospitality Management & Culinary Arts.

“We’ve sponsored a Community Christmas Dinner for several years, but it’s always been held at our Events and Hospitality Center on campus,” Jenkins said. “While that’s certainly a nice facility, the hotel offers much more space and ample parking, and I’m excited that we can host area families and their children there this year. The college was blessed to be able to purchase the hotel, and we aim to use it, in part, to bless others.”

Providing a Christmas meal for Salisbury/Rowan County residents was Jenkins’ brainchild. He firmly believes in Luke 12:48, To whom much is given, much is required. So he, members of his Senior Cabinet and other staff and faculty will serve the college’s guests during the annual event.

“We’re a team at Livingstone College,” Jenkins said. “And that means we work together for common goals and purposes. The intent of the Christmas Dinner is to provide a nice, hearty meal for people in the community and to spread a little Christmas cheer. Many of us at Livingstone look forward to this dinner every year.”

Bishop George E. Battle, Jr., Senior Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and Chairman of the Livingstone College Board of Trustees, has participated in the Community Christmas Dinner in years past. But he and his wife Iris Miller Battle can’t attend this year because of a prior commitment.

Even so, Battle plans to say a word to the college’s guests via videotape.

“Iris and I regret we can’t be there Thursday to see the smiles on the children’s faces and the expression of thanks on their parents’ faces,” Battle said. “Nonetheless, we’re confident the meal will be scrumptious and everyone will enjoy it. The economic downturn has affected institutions of higher learning in major ways, and for a small college that was founded in 1879 by a few AME Zion ministers to purchase a hotel and use it for the greater good speaks volumes about the power of the Lord. It also says a lot about the visionary leader we have in Dr. Jenkins.

“Unfortunately, for decades as Christmas has become more and more commercialized, many people have lost sight of the true reason for the season,” Battle continued. “Yet by opening its doors to strangers in such a way, Livingstone is proving that not everyone has forgotten that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.”

The Christmas meal is being prepared by students in Livingstone’s Hospitality Management & Culinary Arts program and will include turkey crepes, spinach salad with hot bacon vinaigrette dressing, honey-glazed ham topped with pineapple preserves, corn pudding and apple strudel.

After dinner, two people will be awarded scholarships to obtain a certificate in culinary arts. Timothy Gray, who will serve as sous-chef on Thursday, is a former scholarship winner.

“Our students are working diligently this week to ensure the dinner is successful,” Ray said. “And Timothy is a perfect example of what people can do when given a chance. He’s a Presidential Scholar, which means his GPA is at least 3.75, and he was the sous-chef at Carowinds over the summer. I’m grateful to Dr. Jenkins for not only hosting the dinner but also for awarding scholarships to two deserving recipients – a meaningful Christmas present if ever there was one.”

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