The dinner last night went well – sorry I didn’t post right away this morning but I’ve been busy since I was out of the office yesterday.
Denis and I packed up the two cars (yes, we needed both cars!) and drove over to the shelter. It’s really more of an apartment complex specifically for folks getting back on their feet after a hardship (whether it be eviction, leaving an abusive relationship, or whatever).
Denis and I were the first ones there and immediately began setting out things we had brought. I specifically left the presents in the back of my truck so that the kids wouldn’t see them. The sternos were all ready for us when we got there, so we immediately put our potatoes on the racks. While we were finishing the set up of the room Marty came in and put his carrots on the racks. Then Willie showed up and we put his salad into the various bowls at the two tables next to the bowls of dinner rolls. Then in popped Lynne with her turkey, stuffing and gravy – by now the whole area near the conference room we were using smelled DELICIOUS. Marilou and Joe showed up with the roast beef and a professional grade slicer. Apparently Joe’s dad owned a deli and when he closed up shop he gave his son the slicer. It was magnificent and perfect for the 12 pound roast that Joe and Marilou had prepared. Finally, around 6 p.m. the last couple, Sherry and Joe, showed up with the ham and corn. At that point we were all set with the food and the tables were set and we brought in the folks from the center.
A line quickly formed and we served their food pretty quickly – it’s amazing how those sternos really do work to keep food warm. The potatoes were downright STEAMING as Lynne dished them out for folks. Once people started seating themselves at the tables, Pastor Chris and I started taking drink orders and passing out the beverages for folks. In about 30 minutes everyone had their food and we waited a few more minutes and then served ourselves. I tried a little bit of everything and it was all delicious.
Then right at 7 p.m. Pastor Chris got up to speak for a few minutes. While he was speaking, one of the Joes got dressed up in the Santa suit Denis had bought the day before. I also ran to my truck and brought in the six bags of gifts I had (including a bunch in a nice big red sack that I had “Santa” carry in the room with him). When Pastor Chris was done, we led the kids in a short rendition of “Santa Claus is coming to town” and Joe walked in the room. The kids cheered and all but knocked him down as he attempted to move to the front of the room to pass out gifts to the kids.
I prayed that all the kids were represented well in the gifts. Earlier in the afternoon I had gone through the gifts and realized that one girl only had one small gift to open so I ran out to Target and picked up a Barbie, which was another item on her 3-item wishlist. Well, the gifts all got passed out and a few minutes after rip and tear, Lynne came to me and said, “What was on X’s wish list?” I grabbed my folder and saw that he had asked for a Playstation memory card and the White Chicks dvd. She opened the box he had received and in it was …. a bag of Peanut Chews candy.
PEANUT CHEWS? DOES ANYONE EVEN EAT THOSE?
I was horrified. I had presumed that the DVD has been wrapped inside a box to disguise the fact it was a DVD. But no, apparently whoever took X’s name decided he needed PEANUT CHEWS instead of what he actually wished for.
After a quick “meeting” of our small group, two of our guys headed out to Blockbuster to pick up the memory card and dvd. While they were gone the boy had gone back to his apartment more than a little upset and sad (I heard he had actually teared up when he found only the candy). When Joe and Marty got back they quickly wrapped the items and put them near the Christmas tree that was in the conference room. Someone ran and got the boy and brought him back and pointed him towards the tree.
“These are for me? BOTH of them?”
Santa Joe (now back in regular clothes) said something to the effect of, “I guess Santa didn’t see them at the bottom of his bag.” The boy sat down and opened his gifts and the smile on his face was so rewarding – I’m so glad Joe and Marty had gone out immediately to buy those gifts instead of waiting until today. This way the boy truly has no idea that he had been looked over in any way.
In past years kids had been forgotten during the Secret Santa and I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen this year. Thanks to Joe and Marty, it didn’t. Also, one boy didn’t even come to the dinner because THREE YEARS RUNNING he was forgotten during Secret Santa. At some point in the evening I handed his mother a giftcard to the local movie theater and said, “This is for your son – even though he didn’t come I wanted him to know we were thinking about him.” She protested, but I think in the end she was thrilled to be able to take something to him.
It was a short night – we were home by 9 p.m. (although CootieGirl was hopped up on sugar from the desserts at the event). But it was exhausting. And worth every minute of it.
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