The public is invited to enjoy a hearty holiday Christmas Day menu, complimented by heaping helpings of caroling and conviviality at the 23rd Annual Community Christmas Dinner, hosted by the United Methodist Social Services Soup Kitchen.
Soup Kitchen Supervisor Laura Smith said everyone is invited to dinner from 12:30-3 p.m. on Christmas Day, Tuesday, Dec. 25 at Bishop United Methodist Church, 205 N. Fowler St. Need is not an issue, she added. “We just want everyone who wants to come to have the opportunity to be there.”
After 14 years of spending Christmas Day cooking for the community, Bishop Senior Center chef Stephanie Fletcher will finally be having Christmas dinner with her own family this holiday season. “I applaud her for all the years she has done it,” said Smith.
It’s going to take a team to fill Fletcher’s shoes, said Smith. “We are divvying up” this year’s food preparation. Hundreds of pounds of roast beef, donated by the Cattleman’s Association as it has traditionally done for years, will provide the main entree. Smith said she has committed to preparing the main dish but she definitely welcomes volunteer chefs.
Turkey and ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables and salads, other sides, and rolls and bread donated by Schat’s Bäkkery and Jack’s Restaurant will round out the menu, said Smith. Jeff Griffiths’ family is in charge of the potatoes, donated by Manor and Joseph’s Bi-Rite markets, and Tawni Thomson’s family will prepare the main side dish. The Boy Scouts will be there to do KP again this year.
The dessert buffet will include pies and other baked goodies courtesy of Schat’s and Jack’s. Since “a lot of people enjoy sharing their favorite holiday dessert,” said Smith, guests are invited to bring their own favorite holiday recipes. “But please don’t feel obligated. We don’t want people to stay away because they aren’t able to bring something.”
One thing will be very different this year, said Smith. “We will not be doing home deliveries on Christmas Day.” However, since dinner for 400 will be prepared, there will be “enough food for people to come by and pick up to-go boxes for family members or neighbors they know need it.”
Furthermore, according to Inyo County Health and Human Services Director Jean Turner, the county’s Eastern Sierra Area Agency on Aging program staff will prepare dinner for delivery “to our vulnerable, housebound seniors on Christmas Eve.” They will also host a Christmas Eve dinner for eligible seniors at the Senior Center. “Particularly for those that don’t have family, it’s a way for them to participate in social networking and holiday merrymaking,” Turner said.
Community Christmas Dinner guests will be serenaded throughout the banquet by Fiddlin’ Pete Watercott, Ellen Siegal and other musicians who will donate their talents. Each diner will also receive a raffle ticket at the door for a chance to win “little, fun presents” donated by community members, said Smith.
Twenty-three years ago, Watercott, then the Senior Center chef, collaborated with the United Methodist Social Services soup kitchen and its local service organization and church group supporters, to create the Annual Community Christmas Dinner.
Smith said that when she recently got word that “someone had to step up (in Fletcher’s absence), I thought it was too important an activity to too many people” not to get involved. So she and Soup Kitchen Supervisor Roberta Cummings took on the labor of love.
“It’s not just about food, this Christmas dinner. It’s about having people to be with, it’s the fellowship,” said Smith. “And we will be singing together, a few classic carols. We’ll call it the community choir,” said Smith with a chuckle. “It’s amazing how great you can sound with everyone singing together.”
“We really want to thank the United Methodist Church and in particular John Camphouse and Laura Smith, who has really taken the ball and run with it,” added Turner. She added that it was some of the seniors at the Senior Center, who are Methodist congregationalists, who helped make the initial contact.
Smith added that they definitely need more people to volunteer to cook, set up, clean up, serve and so on. On the day of the event, volunteer cooks should arrive at 9 a.m. and there will also be opportunities to take volunteer commitments in the days before Dec. 25. Call Smith at (760) 872-4034 or Cummings at (760) 873-3058.
“It’s going to be a party,” said Smith. “It’s going to be lively.”