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Work, charity meet at Lincoln restaurant

By: Todd Wilson, correspondent
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“Charity begins at home” is a familiar saying but for Kim Strong, owner of Kim’s Country Kitchen restaurant in Lincoln, charity begins at work. For the second year in a row, Strong will work out of her restaurant on Christmas Eve to deliver Christmas dinners to the less fortunate. “I want to do this because this brings things down to what Christmas is all about. It’s not about commercialism,” Strong said. “Material things aren’t important. It’s important to remember what the holiday is about.” For Strong, the Christmas holiday is about helping those in need, particularly seniors. Strong said she noticed that there are many programs for families in need, especially those with young children, during the holidays but seniors often get left out. “The Lions Club does a good job covering families with food baskets but seniors get forgotten. A lot of the elderly are on limited incomes, don’t have family in the area and have trouble getting around,” Strong said. Last year, Strong passed out fliers at local mobile home parks where many seniors live, announcing that they could call the restaurant to receive free Christmas dinners. More than 50 seniors signed up last year for the dinners, which include a serving of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, a dinner roll and a slice of pumpkin pie. Strong ended up delivering an additional 25 meals when she noticed that the electricity had gone out on sections of 3rd Street. Strong said she and her helpers went door to door to ask residents if they needed a hot meal. Strong’s husband, as well as her prep cook Sheri Chiaratti and her husband, help prepare and deliver the meals. Chiaratti has been working at Kim’s Country Kitchen since it opened in August 2007. She said it is important to do this kind of work during the holidays. “There are a lot of shut-ins in town and people who don’t have kids around. They should have a hot meal on the holiday,” Chiaratti said. Chiaratti, a Lincoln resident since 1967, said she started cooking for community service events 13 years ago with the Police Activities League. Because of her past experience volunteering to cook, Chiaratti said she did not think twice when Strong asked her to help with the Christmas dinners. “It all falls right in with what I’ve been doing for years,” Chiaratti said. “Besides, it’s just a good thing to do for people.” The work is time consuming and keeps both Strong and Chiaratti busy on Christmas Eve. Both women, however, said they enjoy working to make sure area residents have a holiday dinner. ‘I like to cook so it doesn’t bother me to work on Christmas Eve. It’s easy,” Chiaratti said. Strong, who pays for the holiday meals out of her own pocket, said she expects more individuals to sign up for dinners this year due to the tough economic times. While Strong started offering free meals with seniors in mind, she said she will not turn away any family in need that requests meals. “A lady came in with her young daughter the other day asking if we were doing it again this year so I signed her up,” Strong said. Strong added that she does not require anyone signing up for a Christmas dinner from the restaurant to prove that he or she is in need. “I just take them on their word,” Strong said.