Entering it’s 36th year, nearly eight-hundred people are served a warm meal free of charge each Christmas Day from 11am to 2pm at St. Luke's Episcopal Church on 2000 Shepard’s Lane, which is one block north of the airport traffic light on Highway 89 in Prescott. Angeles Ramos Zarate, who is the chairwoman for the event, and her team, are looking to make an even bigger difference in the community this year.
“I know and I’m confident we're going to have at least one-thousand meals that we are going to serve,” Zarate said in a phone interview.
Serving this many people in a few hours takes a small army. As such, local businesses that are closed for Christmas Day are joining the cause and helping out.
Darrin Kamoff who has been a chef for 11 years at the of the Manzanita Grille located on 1 Perkins Dr. in Prescott, is entering his fourth year as a main chef for “Don’t Spend Christmas Alone” after doing other jobs for the event in previous years. This Christmas, Kamoff and his team will be cooking up pit-ham with a raisin glaze along with other holiday favorites such as sweet potatoes.
The preparation at the restaurant begins on Christmas Eve for Kamoff before he returns at 6am on Christmas Day to make the glaze, heat and cut the ham. The food is then delivered to the church around 7am.
Kamoff puts forth the effort because of the difference “Don’t Spend Christmas Alone” makes in the community.
“Last year I was packing everything up and there was a lady out in her station wagon; you could tell she was living in her car,” Kamoff said in a phone interview. “I just went and talked to her for a bit and asked her if she wanted some leftovers. So I gave her a bunch of stuff to take with her.”
“There is some people that can’t afford it,” Kamoff continued. “It’s just a great way to give back to the community.”
Kamoff said last year, the organization had issues with continually producing scalloped potatoes throughout the event because of the time dedicated to cook each batch; that will not be a problem this year.
Zarate mentioned during the interview that her team was at a restaurant in March discussing plans for the year’s event and a couple at the restaurant overheard them. That couple turned out to be Randy and Linda Bonneville, the owners of The Bonn Fire restaurant located on 1667 AZ-89 in Chino Valley.
Zarate mentioned the Bonnevilles introduced themselves and told Zarate they would like to donate homemade scalloped potatoes for the event. Zarate mentioned the goal for the event; it didn’t faze the Bonnevilles.
“Linda says ‘count on it, it’s my honor and my pleasure to do that,’” Zarate said. “That’s how wonderful people are.”
The Bonnevilles saw this as an opportunity to show their 13-year-old and 14-year-old that there are less-fortunate individuals in the world and it would be a good cause to help with as a family.
“It’s really important that the people that are alone for Christmas have a nice hot meal and know that somebody is thinking about them on that day,” Linda Bonneville said in a phone interview. “That they’re not really alone for Christmas.”
In addition, the Prescott Valley and Chino Valley Library will also be donating homemade cookies and pies for the event along with other businesses in the area that are also donating tasty treats.
Those who cannot make it to the church for the meal are not being left out. The Prescott Police Department and Prescott Valley Police Department will be delivering meals to households that cannot attend. The Prescott Fire Department will also deliver one-hundred-and-eighty meals for the event.
Additionally, for the first time, the Prescott Valley Police Department will bring their families along as well to spread the Christmas joy.
The St. Luke's Episcopal Church requests those who would like a meal delivered contact them at 928-778-4499.
Shuttles will also be taking people to the event from each city from 10:30 am until 1:30pm.
Shuttles will be taking off every half-hour from Prescott and Prescott Valley while a shuttle will depart Chino Valley every hour.
In Prescott, shuttles will take off from the Staples/Walgreens on Sheldon and Montezuma Street. Meanwhile, shuttles will be available in Prescott Valley at the Safeway shopping center on 7720 State Route 69. In Chino Valley, shuttles will leave at the Safeway Shopping Center on 1031 N. Highway 69.
In total, Zarate is expecting to have two-hundred-and-ninety-four pounds of ham and have no problem feeding anyone who comes through the door on Christmas Day.
“You are so happy for them because they so love to know that somebody cares on such a special day,” Zarate said. “You should see their faces, you can’t help it but be overwhelmed with joy.”