This year’s season of giving brought unexpected good tidings to the Family & Community Christian Association, which served up plenty of comfort and joy at its annual Christmas dinner Wednesday afternoon.
Meal coordinators and volunteers saw a continued rise in donations and deliveries of home-cooked meals in and around the greater Meadville area.
The greatest gift, many volunteers agreed, may have been the replacement of the FCCA’s old kitchen stove, heavy-laden with the dinners of more than 30 years past, in favor of a new, stainless steel wonder installed just days ago.
“We were in dire need of that,” long-time coordinator Bill Foster said. “We really needed help and we got it.”
Holiday help came mostly from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2006, which contributed the new stove and is believed to be mulling over the idea of paying it off in full.
The VFW Post 2006 color guard donated an additional $600 to the dinner, which feeds upwards of 200 people and continues to grow, according to Foster.
And that’s not counting close to 140 volunteers, some of whom delivered about 200 meals to residents around the county who couldn’t travel to the FCCA, roughly on par with last year’s record numbers, Foster added.
“Everyone seemed to reach deeper into their pockets this year,” he said, confirming what he called a considerable rise in monetary, food and equipment donations. “It’s all stuff you need to make a dinner.”
With the brand-new stove already running hot in the kitchen, dinner coordinators are looking forward to at least 30 more years of community meals.
“The previous stove was supposedly here from the beginning, the first meal,” long-time volunteer Dan Bazylak said. “The VFW made a substantial contribution.”
And in some way, every part of the Christmas dinner is a contribution made by a group or individual in the community, making it “a little Christmas miracle” every year, Bazylak added.
“This is a pretty fortunate community to get something like this every year,” he said.
The fortune is credited mostly to the selflessness and generosity of volunteers who worked Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to prepare and serve the holiday meal, Foster said.
“We’ve never had trouble with volunteers,” Foster said. “If every nonprofit (organization) had the volunteers we do, there wouldn’t be a problem in the world.”
Whether they’ve worked up from washing pots and pans over the years or just finding their place in the FCCA kitchen, all hands are welcome on deck, according to Ginger Kester, who has volunteered for more than a decade.
“It’s very fulfilling, very tiring and a good time,” Kester said. “Some people have done it for 10, 20, 30 years. And the new stove is wonderful.”
At the end of the day, it’s all about providing the quintessential fellowship and fun of the Christmas season and seeing the tradition continue well into the future, according to Foster.
“Everyone enjoy your meals and hopefully we’ll see you next year,” he said to those who attended.
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.