Celebrating Christmas with new-found friends

Dec 29, 2022 | Front Page

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Elves adorned the Christmas tree with stuffed animals, lights and ornaments for the Operation Provider Christmas Day dinner.

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The turkeys were prepped and ready to be roasted for the Christmas Day dinner.

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Members of the Barraza family were the first diners at the 2022 Christmas Day dinner.

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Michelle French presented a check for $4,000 to Operation Provider’s Holland Lowe as her fellow Rotarian, Armand LeSage, looked on.

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The dining room at the Elks Lodge was filled with hungry diners.

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Armand LeSage rearranged the bread donated by Jensen’s.

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Adam Hernandez was all smiles as he sliced ham under the watchful eye of William Kenton.

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Santa and Mrs. Claus with Nate Shearer, Kristiina Salo and 8-month-old Freya. The family splits their time between Lake Arrowhead and Huntington Beach.

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Santa and Mrs. Claus made sure to visit with Holland Lowe.

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Local singer Destiny Love shared her voice with the diners at the 2022 Christmas Day dinner.

(Photos by Mary-Justine Lanyon)

Celebrating Christmas with new-found friends

By Mary-Justine Lanyon

The dining room at the Elks Lodge in Rimforest was once again buzzing with conversation and the sounds of Christmas carols.
The occasion was the annual Christmas Day dinner, hosted by Operation Provider at the Elks Lodge, thanks to the graciousness of the Lodge members.
The dinner had not been held the past two years, due to the pandemic. As Holland Lowe, the executive director and founder of Operation Provider, made plans to once again hold the dinner, she was concerned. Her cadre of volunteers had moved on – either leaving the mountain or becoming involved with other Christmas events.
Lowe put out the call for new volunteers – and they responded big time.
On Dec. 24, an anonymous donor dropped off a Christmas tree, which elves (aka volunteers) then decorated. The UCLA Lake Arrowhead Lodge once again donated the use of linen tablecloths and napkins. Several volunteers spent hours folding those napkins just so while others covered the tables they arranged down the middle of the dining room and on either side.
Other elves then set the tables with placemats, silverware and greens.
Meanwhile, even more elves arranged donated toys which would be gifted to children attending the Dec. 25 dinner. Midway through the morning of Dec. 24, five firefighters from County Fire Station 91 showed up with huge boxes of toys that had been donated to their Spark of Love toy drive.
In the kitchen, William Kenton and his team were prepping the turkeys, ham and side dishes for the dinner.
Kenton, a fulltime Crestline resident since last February, heard the call for help and signed up to take charge of the dinner.
“I’ve been cooking since I was 14,” Kenton said. “I’m passionate about it!”
He works with a number of ministries that reach out to the homeless, to foster children and to those with addictions. The retired Cal Fire firefighter/paramedic said he chooses a member of the community each month to whom he offers home improvement services. In the month of January, he posted on Facebook, he will give a 10-percent discount on his services to anyone mentioning the code word “Operation Provider” and will donate 10 percent of the remaining cost to the Rimforest food bank.
Folks started lining up outside the Elks Lodge long before the 11 a.m. start of the dinner. Armand LeSage, who for years has acted as the greeter and host for the dinner, went out to speak with them, welcome them and wish them all a Merry Christmas.
The time finally arrived – the Barraza family was the first to be seated. As they enjoyed their meals – salad, turkey, ham, stuffing, green bean casserole, corn, rolls and dessert – they were all smiles. And, as they left, they helped themselves to some of the bread donated by Jensen’s. The children received gifts, much to their delight.
As one man left, he was heard to say he ate dinner with a new-found friend. That underscores Lowe’s feeling about the dinner.
“No one should sit home alone on Christmas,” she has said many times.
Christmas carols were playing throughout the day, with local singer Destiny Love arriving to share some songs of her own. She did more than sing – when she saw the need, she stepped in to take orders and serve Christmas dinners to folks in the very full dining room.
Michelle French, president of the Mountain Sunrise Rotary Club, arrived to present Lowe with a check for $4,000. The money will be added to Operation Provider’s account at Feeding America.
At long last the highly anticipated event of the day took place – Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived! They visited with the diners, enjoyed a meal themselves and posed for photos with children of all ages.
Throughout the day folks arrived with donations – toys and checks to support the work Operation Provider does.
At 3 p.m. the dinner came to an end and more elves arrived to put the dining room back to normal. The estimate is that several hundred people enjoyed this year’s dinner.
“I’m happy that Operation Provider was able to host the free Christmas Day dinner this year,” Lowe said.
“I’m very grateful for the community support and the outpouring of volunteers who were able to come and help make this event such a success. I’m also extremely appreciative of all the toys and food donations we have been given!”
Lowe added that the Rotary donation means “we have money in Operation Provider’s account to shop when we go to Riverside!”
Operation Provider distributes food to its clients on Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 3 p.m. The food bank is located at 26525 Pine Avenue, Rimforest. For more information, visit www.operationprovider.org.


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