Monday, December 13, 2004

Revised Cover Story
Booster 12-19-04

While You’re In Your Slippers

As the reindeer pull a certain sleigh back to a barn by the North Pole, around dawn on Dec. 25, some Licking County folk are just heading off to work.
Many fortunate local residents enjoy a meal with family and friends, made in their own kitchens on Christmas Day. Quite a few, on the other hand, are making and enjoying holiday meals in slightly different circumstances.

4 a.m. is when the first cooks show up at the Heath Big Boy on Rt. 79, where Skip Salome has opened up the doors for years with a volunteer crew on Christmas to make sure that people, especially seniors, have a place to go and enjoy some warmth and fellowship.
"Many senior citizens who come by thank us for being open," says Salome, who will serve customers from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at a buffet style arrangement. "We really see the largest interest in breakfast items, people are looking for that through 2 o’clock, and then it steadies down to individuals and couples wanting to have a meal with others around ‘em."
Salome says that cook Mike Lanning has been working this day for years, preparing 10 turkeys, but also going through 80 pounds of bacon for that breakfast crowd.
"We’ll go through five, ten, fifteen gallons of gravy probably," Salome laughs. "But the staff here and at my catering business fed 1,400 plus when the 211th ONG was mobilized, feeding them and families and volunteers over at the Armory, so I think we can handle the Christmas crew. We’ll cook non-stop, that’s for sure."

Homer Curry and his family have worked a different sort of Christmas meal set-up for years, in the basement of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church.
On Christmas Day at Noon, anyone at all who wants to join for a holiday meal is invited, at no charge, to come and eat together.
"We feed over a hundred people, maybe up to 175, along with all the police on duty that day," Curry says. "Lots of families with little kids come, and we’ve got hats and gloves people donate through the year, and my family gets some toys and stuff together for them."
Christ Lutheran Church in Heath has helped out greatly with clothing items; the Dairy Queen next door to that church is assisting as well.
"We’ve been working, all of us, on this dinner for 27 years," said Curry, "and my daughter Molly Phillips has really been organizing things the last few years."
"Starting in the spring, we start buying and picking up items for the next Christmas," said Phillips. "We’ll have 9 turkeys, 70 pounds of dressing, and Dairy Queen is donating 240 hot dogs and ice cream bars. My brother Denny Curry is our head chef."
A long-time firefighter and former Newark City Council member, Curry knows that there are people in need of company as much as needing a meal.
"Hungry isn’t everything on Christmas Day," Curry adds, "there’s people just hungry to hear a friendly voice. We feed all that. So many people say to us that they just don’t know what they would have done without having here to go."
The children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren (with a new one on the way in February) plus friends who cook this meal haven’t really measured how much gravy or other recipe items they go through. "We just keep cooking ‘til we run out," Curry says.

On East Main Street, the Licking County Justice Center may feed as many as 320 inmates on Christmas Day. "That’s how many we have right now, but it could be a bit lower come Christmas," says Rhonda Barcus, food service manager at the county jail.
With three kitchen staff cooking and ten trustees (inmates who have earned the right to work and serve around the jail) doing the cleaning on two shifts, everyone gets a holiday meal.
"The first cook gets in about 4 a.m., with the others arriving around 11 a.m. and Noon, and we close out to get ‘em home by 8 p.m." says Barcus. She and the staff plan carefully to make a good meal out of lunch on Dec. 25.
"They may be in jail today," Barcus notes, " but these folks are also our neighbors and family members. No one wants to be in jail just to eat our sweet potatoes; we want them to go home soon wanting to be better people, and have Christmas dinner at home next year. This meal reminds them of that."
On the menu are five hams, 25 quarts of mashed potatoes, sixteen #10 cans of green beans, 30 #10’s of sweet potatoes, and 38 pumpkin pies.
"We make our own gravy," Barcus says proudly, "five gallons or more."

On down the street at the Salvation Army emergency shelter, Major Diana DeMichael explains that the shelter normally closes at 8 a.m., and only reopens at 5:30 pm, including Christmas. "We hope that most of our people find a place to eat, like Mr. Curry’s dinner at St. Francis or have some family that will take them in for at least a few days around Christmas." Some special arrangements will be made for Dec. 25 and the 50 some shelter residents, of whom half are families, with movies and games for the children.
But on Dec. 27, the residents are again expected to leave in the morning to go out in search of jobs and a place to live.
It all makes running out of milk, not getting a present you wanted, or finding out you don’t have the right size batteries seem like very small problems on Christmas Day.


No comments:

Post a Comment