ST. CLOUD-- Residents from nearly 30 senior facilities in central Minnesota will get to enjoy a free holiday meal at a local hotel on Monday night.

The Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites in St. Cloud is hosting the 33rd annual Dinner with Santa event. Jill Magelssen, the Dinner with Santa coordinator, says the event started after a St. Cloud hotel owner visited his friend at a home many years ago.

He happened to go to a nursing home to visit a friend and there was a lady in the next room that really seemed like she could enjoy some company. He stopped in, he visited with her, and he just kind of felt sad that she didn’t seem to have a lot for the holidays. So what he did was he coordinated an opportunity to bring folks from that home to his hotel and put on a free holiday meal for them.

This year around 500 residents and their chaperones will enjoy a free holiday meal and musical entertainment. They will also each take a photo with Santa and receive a wrapped gift. Magelssen says the community tradition is an opportunity to give back to senior citizens.

To be able to come to this event and for the homes not to have to pay a fee to have members attend, you know it’s just wonderful to be a part of something that’s grown and has given so much back to so many who have done so much for us over the course of the years.

The dinner runs from 5:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.