CINCINNATI — For many, Christmas is about spending time with loved ones. Local churches and groups try to bridge the gap for those who may be alone.
A church in Oakley works to bring the community together each year.
Delicious hams, greens and macaroni were on the menu Wednesday at the 12th annual St. Paul Lutheran Church community dinner.
“It’s such a blessing to be able to share this day with our neighbors and come together with the community,” said Deaconess Sarah Smith.
Young and old, families and singles - people from all walks of life were asked to join the Christmas feast. They included Cincinnati City Councilmember Tamaya Dennard.
“It’s just people of all walks of life coming together, sitting down, breaking bread and maybe finding out that we are all more alike than we are unalike,” Dennard said.
While there were gifts for the kids to take home, those doing the serving were getting a gift of their own.
“I remember when I was growing up, I was homeless or I was in a marginalized community and we came to churches like that,” said Tyra Patterson. “I used to say, ‘I want to do this. I want to give back.’”
On Christmas Day two years ago, Patterson became a free woman after spending 23 years behind bars for a wrongful murder conviction.
Now she’s helping people who are getting out of prison.
“It’s about restorative justice for the Ohio Justice and Policy Center,” Patterson said of her work. “What Ohio Justice and Policy have given to us is our freedom. What better way to show gratitude love and mercy.”
Patterson is part of the Beyond Guilt Program, and the former inmates she advocates for spent the holiday giving back.
Since the Beyond Guilt Project began earlier this year, seven men and women were released from prison and are being represented by the program.
“We don’t want that mistake to define who they are,” Patterson said.