Christmas morning dawned full of excitement and magic. Snow was on the ground in places and children were unwrapping presents as volunteers were arriving at the Anza Community Hall early to decorate and prepare a special meal for anyone that wanted good food and warm companionship with friends and neighbors.
From 1-3 p.m. Christmas Day, good cheer and wonderful food permeated the Hall, the result of Anza’s Friends Uniting Neighbors (F. U. N.) Group and a number of smiling volunteers. From the homeless to the well-to-do, neighbors interacted with neighbors and much joy was had by all.
Living Hope’s Pastor Kevin Watson opened the festivities with a prayer of thanksgiving. Besides a hearty meal, there were clothes, toys and treats for the taking. Volunteers went from table to table, passing out candy canes with special messages attached, individually wrapped cakes and Christmas cookies. GeriLyn Mellin made balloon animals for children young and old.
Michael Beatty, lead singer of the metal band “The Tracy G Group,” performed traditional Christmas carols while the meal was served. Beatty and his wife, Linda, get up every Christmas morning, open gifts with their family, make and deliver cakes to their neighbors, then drive two and one-half hours to Anza to provide the musical entertainment. People sang along with the old favorite tunes.
“I believe that yesterday was our biggest Christmas meal ever,” Bill Donahue of the F.U.N. group said. “We can seat 144 people at a time. When every seat was full, the line still wrapped around the room, to the door, for another one and one-half hours.”
Well over 200 people were served pork roast, turkey, ham, corn, casseroles, mashed potatoes and gravy, desserts and much more.
“In the kitchen at these meals you will almost always find Robyn Garrison, Donahue said when asked about those who volunteer at the event. “She would be embarrassed if I listed all the time and money she gives to a number of organizations in this town but it is not an overstatement to say she helps make these meals possible. The other two people that give an amazing number of hours and money are Donald and Terry Seddon. They come early to decorate and cook and it is not uncommon for Terry to even return the following day to straighten up the storage.”
There are many other people who consistently assist with these meals. Les Finn and his wife, Rosa, are integral parts of the Thursday food boxes. Early Christmas morning, Les was out back in the cold deep-frying turkeys and Rosa was doing every job imaginable in the kitchen. Jack and Carolyn Tsushima make the festive table centerpieces each year and they were as creative as they were different from each other.
“Barbara Keller was there early and one of the last people to leave. In the past year, a new generation started stepping up to take important roles in all these events.” Donahue said, “It is not uncommon to see people from seven different churches in Anza working side by side with people who do not attend any church. There are probably 25 more volunteers that I haven’t listed by name.”
Their hard work and uplifting attitudes were appreciated by all.
The event was a tremendous success, as people left with smiles, stuffed to capacity and warmed by the fellowship. The F. U. N. Group offers a home-cooked, hot meal once a month at the Community Hall.