Douglas M. Hoy
During this splendid holiday time of year, many of us think of volunteering to help the disadvantaged, the less fortunate and those who could use just a bit of support. Possibly, that assistance is no more than an understanding smile, some kind words or just possibly a warm meal given gladly, eagerly. Many of us would like to help, but we do not know where or whom to ask. I can answer all of the above.
Meet Donis Osborn. She and her family have been volunteering – serving up a complete, traditional Christmas dinner, for free – at our local Eagles Club #3552 for over 45 years. This service is open to the public and, again, at no cost to the public.
I knew of Donis on a most casual basis. In our infrequent interactions, she never mentioned her passion and mission for helping those in need of assistance during this time of year. It was only by a third party, and a casual conversation, that I was informed of a marvelous lady who had been involved with the Eagles and their Christmas free meals. I arranged for a meeting, and when I saw it was Donis who walked in for the meeting, I was not surprised.
Donis, quiet and unassuming, wants no (and will take no) credit for herself or family for serving this Christmas dinner for almost five decades. She gives all recognition and acknowledgment to our local Eagles Club #3552 and their members, who have sponsored this endeavor for the past 45 years. Donis told me it is just what her family, along with some others, do on Christmas day. These volunteering families know no other way to be. For them, if it is Christmas day, they need to be at the Eagles Club serving the public.
This is total, unconditional giving on the day when most families are in their own homes, enjoying this most-cherished holiday, surrounded by loved ones and familiar items and ideals. By contrast, this day of serving our community is too important for Donis to stay at home. This endeavor takes a large crew to accomplish all the required tasks of the day.
The preparation actually begins in November. To pull this together, it takes sponsorship and participation from local businesses too numerous to mention. The list of these local partners is long, and each one is a blessing to the entire effort. If not for their involvement, the success of this day would not be possible.
When Donis and others began this project 45 years ago, it was simpler. The numbers of people assisted were smaller. But, as with many compassionate ventures, the word spreads quickly. In the beginning years, the Eagles kitchen, although small, was adequate to handle the work. Very soon, as demand outgrew their space, they called for assistance from our local American Legion. They used their bigger kitchen until the Eagles could enlarge their own. Currently, all food items are prepared and made ready at the Eagles kitchen, serving over 220 people each year.
Much has changed over the years. In the beginning, all dinners were served at the Eagles building. But, as times changed, so did the servicing methods. People can still go to the Eagles location prior to Christmas and fill out a request form. Or a person can call the Eagles, up to and including Christmas day, and place their order. The individual can then arrange a time when they can come by and pick up the meal. Also, if someone wants to be part of the celebration at the Eagles but just cannot make it to the facility, a member of the Eagles will come and pick them up. In addition, they have expanded to home delivery. If none of the other options work, the Eagles will do a home delivery of a complete, traditional Christmas meal. All this is done joyfully, at no cost to anyone.
Donis told me it is indeed a great deal of work accomplished by a large team. The only payment received is overwhelming appreciation and ‘thank you’ by those they serve.
No, Donis will not personally accept any credit for this annual labor of love. But she, and the crew, sure do deserve it.