By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — ONEONTA — Nearly 450 meals were served at the annual Friends of Christmas dinner Wednesday at the First United Methodist Church, an organizer said.
Although there has been a change of leadership, all of those interviewed said the event was a success. About 300 people dined in, as expected, while 145 home deliveries were made, event coordinator Ann Steen said.
Recent publicity helped make sure there were more than enough volunteers on hand to keep things running smoothly, she said. This was the first year Steen ran the operation.
She was helped by Kelly Ahlqvist and Janet Hillis, who are also new to the leadership.
“It’s a very big learning process but I am enjoying it,” Steen said, and having volunteers who are willing to step forward has helped. “We have a great team that works together.”
Carol Forman, who had led the event for many years, served as volunteer coordinator this year. The success of the day bodes well for the future of the dinner, she said.
“People want to do things to help others,” she said. “It’s part of the Christmas spirit.”
Ahlqvist said she has been volunteering for several years so she was ready to take on more of a leadership role.
“It’s such a great event, she said. “There are so many people that come and help.” While she attends Christmas celebrations before and after the dinner, “I meet so many nice people (at the dinner). It makes the day more enjoyable.”
Several of those eating said they appreciated the effort. Gary Von Brock of Oneonta said he has been attending for many years.
“I enjoy the meal and the people,” he said. Like others, he wouldn’t have anywhere to go without it. Because of the event, people in his situation “don’t have to be alone for Christmas.”
Kim Collins of Oneonta ate dinner with her mother, Jane Richards. They are both from Oneonta and regularly participate. Since they can’t be with family, “it’s nice to have somewhere to come,” Collins said.
“It’s very festive,” Richards said.
Mary Ann Tokarowski of Unadilla and her family have been volunteering at the event, and a similar held on Thanksgiving, for four years.
“It’s a nice community gathering that helps people and gives them a nice festive meal,” she said. “It makes us feel really good,” and gives a real sense of the “Christmas spirit,” she said.