ALAMOSA — One of Pat Lucero’s Christmas dinner wishes was for a larger place to hold the annual free community dinner.
This year her wish will be granted with the new location at the Columbus Home Association Event Center (Knights of Columbus) on Eighth Street in Alamosa.
But Pat will not be present to see her wish come true. She was killed in a car crash a few days after the Christmas dinner last year. Her long-time leadership and participation in the Christmas dinner committee will be recognized at the dinner this year, for even though her place at the table will be empty, her spirit of compassion and generosity will live on forever in the annual event and the community she loved.
“Pat was near and dear to my heart. We definitely miss her,” said Debra Parr Yund, who has stepped up to chair the Christmas dinner committee. “We are going to honor Pat at the dinner and her dedication to our group.”
She added, “She was such a special person, generous beyond. She was one great lady.”
The committee will also honor the American Legion who hosted the annual dinner for so many years.
As it has been held since 1990, the Annual Free Community Christmas Dinner will be held on Christmas Day, which this year is Monday, Dec. 25, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The turkey dinner with all the trimmings is served sit-down style, with volunteers bringing the meals to the tables. The dinner, started by the late Ann Edstrom Watters, is free and open to everyone, regardless of their circumstances. It is an opportunity for the community and visitors to get together, and as Ann had wished, for no one to be alone on Christmas.
It will be held at its new location at 1112 Eighth Street, Alamosa, just east of the Bank Shot.
The new location offers more space inside and out, with ample parking around the KC hall.
Yund said Lucero had talked about wishing the dinner could have a larger space, and this fulfills her wish.
“This is Pat’s Christmas gift, a gift to us all,” Yund said. “We found a new location that’s larger. That’s what she wished for.”
In addition to Yund, the Christmas dinner committee includes Rick Esquibel, Sandra Hostetter, Sandy Lopez and Erica Porrello.
“We have a dedicated group that’s been doing this a while, so it makes it a little easier,” Yund said.
The committee appreciates all those who help in so many ways to make the dinner possible each year and invites volunteers and donors to join them again this year in providing about 1,000 meals to San Luis Valley residents and guests.
“It’s really nice to see people step up and help the community,” Yund said.
Volunteers need to call Yund at 719-298-8049 to schedule a time to help with the dinner.
“Even if you volunteered last year, you need to call again to get on the list,” Yund reminded volunteers. She needs to be able to schedule volunteers so the times are covered but not too many are there at one time.
Those who are homebound in the Alamosa also need to call ahead to have a meal delivered. Sandy is taking those calls at 719-580-9182. Meals can be delivered in Alamosa or nearby.
In addition to volunteers, the Christmas dinner committee needs monetary donations. It takes about $7,000 to put the dinner on each year, and the group still needs about $3,000 this year to break even. The group is discouraging food donations this year because it is easier to order what is needed and know it is all there than to try to collect bits and pieces here and there.
“We are not asking for food donations,” Yund explained. “When you are trying to do such a big thing — feeding 1,000-plus people — it’s just easier to order in advance. Then we know what we have and are not waiting on something to come in.”
Any food that is not needed for the dinner will be donated to La Puente, she added.
“We pass it on to those in need.”
The one food item that the committee is accepting is dessert. Cookies and pies will be accepted as they have been in the past, except no cream pies please. Desserts may be delivered to the Columbus Home Association Event Center between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. December 23 and 24.
The committee will also accept new unwrapped toys during those hours for Santa to give to the children. For sanitary purposes, no stuffed animals will be accepted. Other toys need to be new. Anyone with questions about these donations may call Yund.
Monetary donations are very much appreciated and may be mailed to the Free Community Christmas Dinner at P.O. Box 1981, Alamosa 81101.
“We appreciate all the small donations and we especially appreciate the businesses stepping up and giving back to the community,” Yund said.
Although the Christmas dinner is a lot of work for the small committee organizing it every year, they enjoy it.
“It’s so much fun on Christmas Day,” Yund said. “The Santa and the kids, it’s an absolute joy. I have thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Although she has only been involved with the dinner since 2013, Yund has been involved in various volunteer efforts for years. For example, she served on the Sargent school steering committee for four years, served on the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee for a couple of years and after earning her real estate license in 1999 has served in many capacities in the real estate association and has been named Realtor of the Year three times.
“Volunteerism is a necessity,” she said. “It fills your soul. You need to take time to be a part of something. If you are a part of your community, you need to take part in some of the activities. Volunteerism is so important. It’s such a rewarding experience.”
The Christmas dinner draws volunteers who have helped for many years, Yund said, and although they may not have seen each other since the last dinner, it’s like family when they get together.
To assist with the dinner or for more information call Debi Parr Yund at 719-298-8049 or email [email protected] The Christmas dinner is also on Facebook and on the web at: https://fccdinner.wordpress.com/
Caption: Pat Lucero/Courier file photo