TEMECULA – The twenty-plus year tradition of the annual Community Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day will continue, as three Rotary clubs – Temecula Sunrise Rotary, Temecula (noon) Rotary and the Temecula Valley-New Generation Club, along with the city of Temecula, will serve a fully cooked meal of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables and dessert.
It is served free to anyone who shows up at the Mary Phillips Senior Center in Old Town Temecula at 41845 Sixth Street between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Christmas Day.
“The Community Christmas Dinner is a very important tradition in Temecula,” Mark Sitar, president of the Temecula Sunrise Rotary Club and co-chair of the event, along with his wife Diane, said. “This is not a soup kitchen for the unfortunate, although everyone is welcome. This is for anyone who wants a place to go on Christmas Day. It is a simple concept that touches people throughout our community.”
It is the holiday spirit that is important, he said. The dinner has a warm atmosphere filled with laughter and stories from the past years that are shared around each table. Santa Claus will attend, passing out presents to the children and taking pictures taken with them. Tips are refused, but hugs and handshakes are always welcome, Sitar said.
Last year, following the Christmas dinner, the clubs received a letter from an attendee:
“I’d like to tell you what a lovely experience the Christmas dinner was for me. As I arrived, I was promptly greeted at the door by two Rotarians who treated me like a personal guest. A woman came forward and escorted me to a seat, while another woman promptly asked me what I would like to drink. Five minutes later another volunteer brought me a plate piled with enough food for two people. It was a delicious meal.
“I was seated across from a couple from French Valley who decided not to cook that day, but instead take advantage of the generosity of the Rotary Club. On my left, a young couple arrived, and as I proceeded to greet them, they were saying grace. On my right was a three-generational family, with a toddler on her daddy’s knee.
“I saw homeless; I saw families with teenagers; I saw older people like me. Everyone seemed happy. I felt a joyous spirit in the air and felt privileged to be there where so much love and attention was given to the guests. I asked one volunteer if she was a ‘Mrs. Rotarian.’ She laughed and said ‘Oh no, my daughter and her family do this each year, and I joined them here this year. We love to do it.’
“Needless to say, I left with a smile on my face and thankfulness in my heart. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for a most beautiful community service.”
Christmas is a special time of year. The community is invited to make it extra special and join the Rotarians for a great meal at no cost. Everyone is welcome with no conditions or requirements. Just show up and share some joy with the greater community.
Each year hundreds of volunteers work in various capacities to make the event work. One of them is the call for baked pies. When word is sent out that there is a need for pies, the community has responded. To donate a pie, call (951) 265-8557.
To volunteer, call Julie Ngo at (619) 246-0489. To give a tax deductible donation, donate online at https://squareup.com/store/Community-Christmas-Dinner or send a check made payable to “Community Christmas Dinner” and mail it to P. O. Box 2203, Temecula, CA 92593.