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Will record-setting Christmas dinner be Center’s last?

January 3, 2012

Stephanie Fletcher, chef at the Bishop Senior Center, following another Christmas dinner. This year, the center served more than 600, but it could be the last dinner due to budget cuts and rising food costs. Not shown are kitchen assistants Janie Barba and Lisa Gates. Photo by Mike Bodine

Through the generosity of volunteers and donors, the Bishop Senior Center offered up another Christmas dinner, its 23rd in a row, and set a record by serving more than 600 local residents – most of those meals being home deliveries. But, with budget cuts and the rising cost of food, this may be the last Christmas dinner the center can afford to offer.
The small kitchen crew at the center is about to get smaller with a lay-off coming at the first of the year, a grim reality forced by a shrinking county budget, said Stephanie Fletcher, Senior Center chef. She said she is not sure if the reduced staff could handle the holiday dinner preparations, which takes a week to prepare in addition to performing their usual duties of serving more than 200 lunches daily Monday through Friday.
She explained that there are plenty of people and organizations willing to donate. This year, an entire Boy Scout troop – parents and all – peeled potatoes all day. She said she got her whole family into the act this year, too. She said her kids, Jeff Kliks, 19, and Elizabeth Kliks, 16, have helped out in years past, but this year, Jeff was in charge of the front door, with he and his sister working all day. Fletcher’s ex-husband and friend, Chris Kliks, pitched in as well.
The Duforts of Bishop, David, Judy, Michael and Hillary, also stayed the entire day to volunteer, Fletcher said.
The act of giving, and giving and giving, for countless hours on Christmas for the dinner is good exposure for her children, Fletcher said.
The local Veterans of Foreign Wars unit could not volunteer this year and so she had to find additional help. Luckily, Fletcher said, “There were more enough volunteers.”
Along with volunteers, the local Cattlemen’s Association helps out every year, Fletcher said, with generous donations of beef, about a pound, uncooked, per person. She said with the prices of beef spiking recently, without the donation, the dinner never would have happened.
And many local merchants donate, she said, “even with the economy the way it is.”

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