Do the holidays increase your level of depression? If so, then take the advice of therapists, that tell us to get involved with activities that make us feel positive about life. For me that would include being involved with activities my church sponsors that interest me.
One church connected activity I’ve enjoyed being involved with for the last three years is a community outreach Christmas Dinner that’s held at my church. I’ve “jumped in” and gotten involved in whatever way I can with this “open door” invite at Webster Baptist Church, Webster, NC.
This community Christmas Day Dinner was started more than 10 years ago by the DeRico family. That would’ve been when Ken and Katrina DeRico’s two young adult children would’ve been quite young.
At that time they were just getting settled into living in the Smokey Mountains. They were new Floridan transplants that found themselves eating a big Christmas dinner by themselves away from their extended families.
That experience made them realize that the holidays can be a time of being away from family as well as having to choose which family to be with. And not everyone has family to spend the holidays with.
Within a year or two the DeRicos found and joined WBC after moving up here. Noticing our church has a well equipped kitchen, an idea began to form in Ken’s mind, “Why not cook a community wide Christmas Dinner at the fellowship building and visit with whoever shows up.” After all they are both great cooks so within a few years of them being up here they did just that.
I’m not sure Katrina said “Sure lets do it,” right off, but she found herself tripling her dressing recipe and wondering how many hams and turkeys they would need to buy for their first “Open Door Christmas Dinner.” After all, they found most people here had deep family roots and probably celebrated Christmas with their extended families.
And, pray tell, how would they pay for it all?
Nevertheless, they were on a self directed mission “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction,” James 1:27 (ESV).
Now, leap forward ten plus years and below are some stats that their daughter Caitlin put up on her Facebook page. This is not to glorify them or any of the other sixty-plus volunteers that helped out for two prep days and also helped serve on Christmas Day.
Caitlin DeRico Snodgrass to Webster Christmas Outreach Dinner
425 delivery and carryout
60 inmates got cookies
30 Sheriff Deputies
4 Sylva PD
4 911 dispatch
20 Qualla FD station
30 Balsam Center
75 Hermitage Nursing Home received essentials stockings
50 Mountain Trace NH received essentials stockings
35 Skyland Care Center received essentials stockings & 2 personal gifts for 2 residents
At least 50 dined in.
By now, Caitlin is the main organizer and scheduler. The bulk of us just show up on the days she posts for volunteers.
Now how did it all come together for them? Of course I don’t know the tiny details. But, I do know that they start in November cooking their kettle corn in WBC parking lot for donations. Behind the scene one of them is going to all the grocery stores in town asking for donated food, which includes hams and turkeys.
They don’t ask for donations at the Christmas Dinner. All of that has been taken care of by then. There’s actually a flow of order to it all and coming together at the right times. Nothing is overcooked and there is always plenty of it.
Of course, the dinner prep comes with a lot of anticipation and excitement every year. Excitement in the air builds among the volunteers. And, everyone is excited about participating in it in someway.
Just being there raises my endorphins. Jumping in and helping out keeps me feeling that excitement for days later. One year we had Santa show up with his eight tiny reindeer! Okay, the reindeer were really his pickup truck but no one was disappointed with his visit.
I’ve gotten to meet so many great Christians in my church by just participating in various church connected events like this annual event. Friendships with a lot of different people have opened up for me. This year my husband Jeff got involved with the Christmas Dinner and helped me take meals out to shut-ins.
I want to encourage you to get involved with volunteering or being involved someway with a need that’s bigger than your holiday blues. You’ll have great memories, make new friends, meet people who need you to just listen to them for a minute or two. You will become more involved in a world of happiness that’s bigger than your blues.