Born from the hearts of two displaced people, the first Holiday Meal put together by the Davis Food Co-op was humble and close-knit.
It was a gathering for others who either didn’t have a place to go for the holidays or the money to get away.
“It started out when two employees didn’t have a home to go for the holidays because they were lesbians and neither of their families would take them,” said Julie Cross, the education coordinator for the Co-op. “They decided to put together a meal for others who didn’t have a place to go.”
Approximately 600 guests are expected at Saturday’s Christmas Eve meal, the 26th annual celebration. The meal is open to everyone and runs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Veterans’ Memorial Center, 203 E. 14th St.
“We are so lucky to be in a community that is so welcoming to this sort of organization,” said Cross, who has worked on the past 17 meals. “We do things year-round, but this one is really special.”
Part of what makes the Holiday Meal special is the overwhelming sense of community, and the other part would be the stellar meals: traditional and vegan.
“When you look at the 600 people, it’s a broad cross-section of Davis,” Cross said. “You’ll have people who are members of the co-op; you’ll have doctors and lawyers, people who work for the city. There will be some homeless, some foreign students and elderly.
“It’s a lovely picture of our community.”
Feeding all the people and getting it all together is also a communal job as more than 200 volunteers and local businesses help out.
“We wouldn’t be able to do it without them,” Cross said. “Many volunteers say it’s the most important part of their holiday.”
The Davis Food Co-op gets helps from Diestel Turkey Ranch, Saags Specialty Meats, Veritable Vegetable, Norcal Produce, Roeher Brothers, Unified Grocers, Dos Coyotes, Village Bakery, Davis Art Center, Sodexo, the city of Davis, Ron and Wendy Goldberg, Oakland Packaging and Konditorei.
Additionally, many individuals and businesses made cash donations to help fund the meal. Any excess funds go to the Food Bank of Yolo County, according to Cross.
Aside from financial support, individuals may help out in the kitchen — their own kitchen. At the meal, there will be a dessert potluck. Anyone may bring an after-dinner treat to add to the festivities.
Cross recalls one meal that stood out among the nearly 20 she’s attended.
“My favorite was about 10 years ago — a nicely dressed woman and a little girl came,” Cross said. “The mom said her divorce was just final, and she was grateful there was a big family celebration she could take her daughter to.
“When some people think of the meal, they think of helping the poor and destitute,” she added. “But it really serves the needs of all people.”
— Reach Kim Orendor at firstname.lastname@example.org