St. Mary's Xmas dinner

Participants enjoy the 2015 community Christmas dinner put on by St. Mary of the Angels Church. The church will again hold the meal this Sunday.

OLEAN — For years, Mike Tominez and others have helped deliver meals to hundreds of people Christmas Day to ensure all who desire a hot meal and companionship aren’t disappointed.

Ham dinners and dessert again will be served from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Sunday at St. Mary of the Angels Church at 202 S. Union St. Takeout meals will be provided from noon to 12:30 p.m., and deliveries will take place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to homes in the area, said Jenny Kane, communications director at the church. Residents interested in volunteering or signing up to deliver meals to homes should contact the church by Friday, Kane added.

“I think we serve less than 200 dinners in-house,” Kane said. “The rest is all home delivery. It’s incredible. They do this every year, they have this whole system done to get the dinners packed and delivered while they’re still hot.”

The church receives help from longtime and new volunteers who make sure the meals are delivered in Olean as well as surrounding communities, Kane said.

“It’s a great thing, and it’s not just people from our parish (volunteering). A lot of folks will come here from town in the late morning to do this,” she added. “It’s a great time of the day, you can finish your morning stuff and go to the church to help. Within an hour and a half everything is delivered.”

All of the cooking for the meals is conducted in the church, Kane said. Pies are also provided as the dessert item, with treat bags containing candy on the side.

“They do some personalization for this dinner, which has always amazed me,” Kane said. “The (meals) are sent out with little treat bags. It takes a lot of donations, labor and people to assemble all of this — but it’s a little signature of ours to show we care.”

St. Mary’s youth ministry help with the treat bags, she added. The church dining room, accessed from the First Street entrance, is where the sit-down dinners are served, Kane said.

“There are people dressed in holiday wear, there’s Christmas music, the tables are decorated and there are treat bags at every place setting,” Kane described. “They really do it up nicely. It’s not a soup kitchen atmosphere whatsoever. The dignity of every diner is taken into consideration.”

She said all are welcome to attend, not just those in need, but those who are alone or “empty nesters” desiring fellowship on Christmas.

“It’s not just for one type of demographic, it truly is a community dinner,” she added.

Tominez, who has coordinated volunteers to deliver meals for many years, said drivers are still needed for that aspect of the program.

“We do have a kitchen that is very organized and put the meals in a to-go container,” Tominez noted. “It’s a real nice ham dinner and above-average food.”

Tominez has a core group of organizers who will instruct the 40 or more volunteer drivers who, in turn, deliver approximately 750 meals in the vicinity.

“The nice thing you see is that the drivers come in not only as a husband-and-wife (team), but also with their children, as well,” Tominez said. “A lot of them have been doing this year after year after year.”

Drivers, if requested, spend time with meal recipients at their homes, Tominez said.

“We tell the drivers to remember that they may be only people these individuals may see on Christmas Day,” Tominez said. “If they would like you to sit down a minute, or for you to put their meal on a plate” the volunteers should comply.

The volunteers also deliver meals to the Olean police and fire departments as well as pharmacists, all of whom work on Christmas Day to ensure emergency care and medicine is available, he added.

For more information on volunteering or donating pies for the meal, contact the church at 372-4841 by Friday.

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at kates_th@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)

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