Christmas Eve Kiwanis meal celebrates its 30th year

mgaytan@losbanos enterprise.comDecember 27, 2013 

Never mind the nearly 1,000 people who attended the Kiwanis Club’s 30th annual Christmas Eve Dinner. To first-time volunteer Mike Boggs, 61, it felt like a family event.

“When else can we get together as a family,” he said. “The whole town of Los Banos should be proud of itself.”

The dinner was held Tuesday at Fire Station No. 1, on Seventh Street, where hundreds of people gathered to dine on a three-course meal and see Santa hand out stuffed toys to the little ones.

Salad, barbecued chicken, pasta, bread rolls and a slice of pie were served up. More than 50 people from Kiwanis, the Fire Department and the community helped make the dinner possible, said Jim Valentine, a Kiwanian.

The community dinner originally began as a way to help provide a hot meal to families who may have been alone during the holiday season.

Edwin Gifft, 88, a retired veteran, said he’s been attending for so many years that he couldn’t even remember when he first started. He used to accompany his wife, but since her death 15 years ago, he has gone alone.

“I live alone,” he said, “and this is a good place to get Christmas dinner. I think they (Kiwanis) do good things.”

First-time volunteer Boggs was looking for something to do on Christmas Eve that would help others. He was referred by a friend to work at the dinner. Boggs was greeting people at the fire station and guiding them through the food line.

“People are coming in very organized and very polite,” he said.

Boggs also said that he likes that the dinner is open to not only families in need but to the whole community.

Valentine began organizing the event months ago. He said this year organizers bought enough food for 950 people.

About an hour before dinner service was to end, the food was running low, but Valentine said he still felt rewarded.

“I couldn’t ask for better success,” he said. “We’ve gone beyond 950 people.”

Valentine said a lot of effort goes into planning the dinner, and its success wouldn’t be possible without help from the community.

Volunteers clean and cook the chicken, he said. Kiwanis and other volunteers help prepare the rest of the food and set up the dining area. And most important, Valentine said, the dinner wouldn’t be possible without the finances coming from the community.

“Individuals and businesses within our community provide the funding for this dinner,” he said.

Reporter Marina Gaytan can be reached at (209) 826-3831 ext. 6562 or mgaytan@losbanos

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