TEMECULA – The 25-year tradition of the annual Community Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day will continue. 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.
The meal 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. Christmas Day.
“The Community Christmas Dinner is a very important tradition in Temecula,” Mark Sitar, past president of the Temecula Sunrise Rotary Club and co-chair of the event, along with his wife Diane Sitar. “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. There is a warm atmosphere filled with laughter and stories from the past years that go on at each table. We even have Santa Claus passing out presents to the kids and getting their pictures taken with Santa. Tips are refused but hugs and handshakes are always welcome,” he said.
Each year following the Christmas dinner, the clubs receive accolades from those who attended. One recent year brought 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.”
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 responds. Anyone who would like to donate a pie can call (951) 265-8557.
To volunteer, call Julie Ngo at (619) 246-0489. To make a donation, contact Myra Allen at email@example.com or (949) 433-8612, make a tax deductible donation 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.
Submitted by Temecula Sunrise Rotary.