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Winona group brings Easter joy to residents through delivered meals

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WINONA, Minn. (KTTC) -- Fond Easter memories begin with yearly traditions.

"Food is right up there at the top of that list for a lot of people, myself included," said Jim Esser, Chartwells Saint Mary's executive chef.

For almost 20 years, Winona Volunteer Services has been providing residents with an Easter meal.

"The first year we did this, a board member and I tried to cook the meal ourselves," remembered executive director Sandra Burke. "I could cook for 20 people but cooking for 200 was a not in my playbook."

Winona Volunteer Services partnered with Chartwells to be able to have enough food.

The meals are usually served at the local Eagles Club, but last year, the group decided to deliver meals because of the pandemic. The virus was not the only obstacle.

"Last year, the scenery was a lot different," Burke recalls. "It was sleeting, snowing and 30 degrees."

This year brought much better weather for the drivers. The service requires weeks of planning and an early Easter morning.

"The actual making of meals began this morning at 6 o'clock," Esser said.

More than 200 meals go out in the bluff town on the Mississippi.

"We don't put any income guidelines on it," Burke said. "We just don't want anybody to be without an Easter meal on Easter Sunday."

"This year we gave them baked ham, au gratin potatoes, steamed vegetables, a side salad and Rice Krispy treat for dessert," Esser said.

The community appreciates their effort.

"We'll get little notes that say 'The food was delicious. We loved the ham.' It's a traditional Easter dinner," Burke said. "They're just so excited people are thinking of them and volunteers bring it to their doorstep."

Winona Volunteer Services hopes to plan something special for the 20th annual Easter delivery meal.

The non-profit delivers cooked meals to individuals in need during the week and also operates a food store and clothing shop.

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