By Selwyn Harris
By all accounts, the NyE Communities Coalition’s Christmas dinner went off without a hitch on Christmas Day.
More than 500 families and individuals were served from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Organizer Linda DeMeo said dozens of volunteers who participated this year helped make the annual dinner a success even though there were a few tense moments just prior to the event.
“It was super. One of our volunteers, Chanda Wieland, had gotten over 20 phone calls that volunteers were sick, but God sent enough volunteers that we were able to take care of everybody. Everything went smooth in the kitchen. It was so well organized with the ladies who did show up,” she said.
DeMeo also said that even homebound residents were able to enjoy the meal through the efforts of the volunteers who delivered the dinners to families around the Pahrump Valley.
“I had 188 to-go boxes. There was one or two that we could not find because they were not home. Other than that, all of the boxes were delivered. We had many Christmas gifts so we were able to pull numbers and hand out the gifts. Barb Johnston from Quilts 4 Cancer sent a bunch of quilts so we were able to give those away too. Toys for Tots also sent a bunch of toys as well,” she said.
Local resident Harry Sawyer has lived in Pahrump for about 16 years.
While he did not receive a toy, Sawyer did have wonderful things to say about the dinner and what the coalition does for the community.
“I was here for Thanksgiving and I was here for Christmas last year. This is great and people love it. When you care, you share and when you share, you care. That’s about how it is. It’s the bottom line. It is really nice when the people of Pahrump pull together and help each other,” he said.
DeMeo, meanwhile, spoke about another Pahrump resident who just recently arrived in town.
She said the woman was especially grateful for the Christmas dinner because she did not have any family to share the holiday with.
“There was a lady who came in and she is new to the community. She was depressed and she found out about the Christmas dinner. She said she walked in and heard the music from ‘Wings of Love.’ She said it just made her day because she is not around her family. She took several meals to go for wheelchair bound neighbors of hers. She said it just made her day,” DeMeo said.
DeMeo also noted that as an organizer she felt it was very important that the annual community Christmas Day dinner should always be served on Christmas Day.
“Several years ago this was on Thanksgiving but I wanted to have this on Christmas Day if we can. Of course, if it’s on a Sunday, I have so many pastors that can’t do it. So many people are depressed on Christmas Day and I think that is what makes our community so special because we have something for people to come to and to feel the family feeling and love of our community on that day,” she said.
DeMeo had high praise for all of the volunteers.
She especially wanted to give thanks to the younger volunteers who sacrificed their time to make the holiday a special one for those who attended the dinner.
“Think about it. Christmas Day and these young people come out and serve others. There is so much bad stuff said about our young people; well here is the good,” she remarked.
Organizers planned to feed roughly 1,000 people at the dinner.
Since that number fell short, DeMeo noted that leftovers did not go to waste.
“We still feed about 1,000 people because it goes back to the community through another venue. Nothing is wasted, nothing is thrown away. We have such great coordination with NyE Communities Coalition’s Holiday Task Force that we have different places that everything can go to. We have such a wonderful group of people at the coalition and people at the different churches are so organized, it makes everything so simple. They really are an amazing group of people,” she said.
NyECC’s Tim Wigchers said some volunteers had their collective hands full on Monday getting everything prepared for the community dinner.
“We had lots of ham; the scalloped potatoes this year were made with fresh potatoes so they were here early on Christmas Eve to scrub 300 pounds of potatoes to start preparing those. I know the macaroni and cheese was popular with the kids last year so we brought that back too. There were also vegetables, rolls and pies,” he said.
The Christmas Day dinner was the first time that the coalition prepared the entire meal at their location unlike last year.
“It was Thanksgiving and Christmas when we used the facility last year but now we are able to cook here. The hams were actually cooked here. Last year all of the food was prepared off site in licensed kitchens in restaurants and casinos around the community,” Wigchers said.
The Pahrump Senior Center also served Christmas dinner. Site Manager Anne Blankenship said the center began serving seniors from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the Friday before Christmas.
“We had baked ham, yams, and broccoli casserole as well as ambrosia salad and cherry pie. We also want to give a special thanks to Commissioner Gary Hollis and Dan Simmons for donating 25 hams and to Healthcare Partners for the donation of 60 cherry pies for our seniors,” she said.
“We served about 200 people in the center that day. In addition to our congregate meal, we served hot meals to our 130 “Meals on Wheels” folks. Our staff arrived at work about 3 a.m. to begin cooking and the Meals on Wheels were ready and on their way by 8 a.m. The Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Services were kind enough to come by and pick them up and deliver them to our homebound seniors,” Blankenship noted.