Turnwall family continues Christmas dinner tradition
By Anna Jauhola
KARLSTAD – Carolyn and Hollis Turnwall are dedicated to serving others.
It has been the foundation of their business, Karlstad Korner, and the reason they have served a Christmas Day dinner for the last 18 years, free of charge.
“It always makes my heart happy to serve others. I’m just made that way, and Hollis is made that way too,” Carolyn said. “That’s part of what our business is about, too – helping people. That’s why we pump their gas and try to make light of the day.”
Twenty or more years ago, Bob and Carol Carlson invited the Turnwalls to help serve a Christmas meal at the Karlstad Community Center. Carolyn and Hollis brought their children along and they all loved it so much, they wanted to continue the tradition. When the Carlsons decided to stop serving the holiday meal, the Turnwalls planned and began serving a Christmas Day dinner at Karlstad Korner in 2001 where they were already cooking homemade meals daily.
“And we’ve been doing it ever since,” Carolyn said of the free meal she and her family provide at their own expense.
The response from the public has continued to be overwhelmingly positive. Many elderly people and others in town don’t have anyone visit or anywhere to go for Christmas.
“And when they come (to Karlstad Korner) they are just so excited to have someplace to go for Christmas,” Carolyn said. “So, we’ve just made it a tradition for us to do it.”
Some years, they also have travelers stopping through town – usually Canadians traveling to the Twin Cities – who need a place to stop for lunch.
“They have stopped here and shared dinner with us, and absolutely loved it,” Carolyn said. “So it gives you the incentive to keep doing it. And as long as the people are happy to come to it, and there’s a demand for it, we will keep doing it.”
This year, 15 Turnwall family members worked behind the scenes with several other volunteers to prepare, serve and deliver the meal.
Darwin and Lori Anderson delivered meals to those who couldn’t make it to Karlstad Korner. Todd and Sue Dufault, and Joann Dufault, helped cook and serve as well.
Carolyn said they served between 80 and 100 meals this year, including 16 deliveries and 15 take-out orders. She suspects the middle-of-the-week holiday contributed to the extra attendees at this year’s meal.
“Our tables were full there for a while,” she said. “And it was awesome. It was much busier than in the last few years.”
The event has truly become a community event. Carolyn will often have requests from people wanting to volunteer by helping cook, serve or deliver. Others donate money and food to the event. This year, one woman made seven apple pies, eight pans of pumpkin bars and three loaves of banana bread. One person donated a ham and others will bring buns or plates of cookies.
“We physically do the work and we pay for most of the meal, but others help with it,” Carolyn said.
Aside from the desire and need for a Christmas Day meal in Karlstad, Carolyn said the event also provides her family with many benefits. They not only have fun making and serving the meal together, much of the work helps teach the younger generations about hard work and helping others.
“Our kids learn to see the love for people, how they can care for others that isn’t always something we learn in daily life,” she said.
She said the entire family also learns how to participate as a team by each having a certain job in the operation and coordinating with each other to get the work done.
As Carolyn and Hollis get on in years, they are seriously considering retirement.
They are hands-on business owners, working every single day at Karlstad Korner, often missing out on different events because of work.
“The hardest thing for me is, one day one of my grandkids said to me, ‘Grandma, is that all you do, is work?’ So I want to change that,” Carolyn said. “I need to be there more for them to go to their sports and concerts and such, instead of dragging them into the store to work.”
When the Turnwalls decide to retire, that will not affect the Christmas Day dinner. Carolyn said her family has become so attached to creating and serving a community meal that they can’t possibly give it up. Should they sell Karlstad Korner, they’d probably bring it back to the community center.
“They all look forward to it,” Carolyn said of her family. “It’s something they’re all a part of. I can’t imagine what else we’d do. It’s really something people are so excited about and thankful for. How can you not do it?”