The annual Christmas Dinner at the Lewis County Senior Center has become a community tradition for the county.
The dinner started with two local men, Paul Titus and Tom Fealy, at Fealy’s barbour shop in the early 1980s, and quickly outgrew the location. The two men recognized a need in the community and wanted to do their part to fill it.
“A lot of people didn’t have anywhere to go for Christmas,” Fealy said. “We started in the barbour shop here; it just grew ever since. We’re just glad to keep it going, and to have it carried on. There’s a lot of people in Weston that need some help, and Dan [Mick] and a lot of them [volunteers] do a great job out there.”
Each year, many people in the community travel to the Lewis County Senior Center to dine with other members of the community. Organizer Dan Mick said the volunteers served 1,100 meals last year, including delivery.
Meals can be picked up or delivered between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., at the Senior Center, and dine-in service begins at 11 a.m. Traditional Christmas trimmings are on the menu each year, including turkey and ham. Pies, cake and cookie donations may be dropped off at the Senior Center on Dec. 24, from 12-3 p.m., and on Christmas morning.
Volunteers are still needed for Dec. 24 and Christmas Day to help with food preparation, serving and cleanup, and drivers are needed to deliver food to the homebound. To volunteer, contact Ella Clem at 304-269-4028.
On Christmas Day, and well before it, volunteers offer their time to make the event a success. The dinner is staffed entirely by volunteers and paid for through donations. Mick said volunteers help in the kitchen, lobby and with delivery. Those who participate regularly say it’s a very rewarding experience.
“There’s a lot of people who don’t get anything to eat or visit anybody on Christmas Day,” Jane Lew Volunteer Fire Department President J.M. Oldaker said. “A lot of them just come out and eat at the Senior Center and talk to people. They have nobody to be with on Christmas, so I think it’s a good thing.”
The dinner is served at 10 a.m. on Christmas Day, but organizers said the doors are usually open early and guests of any background can stroll on in and sit to have a chat with fellow community members. Organizer Dan Mick said people have come in as early as 8 a.m. The dinner isn’t just open to those who need a meal or someone to talk to.
“It’s for anybody,” Mick said. “There is maybe somebody who has lost a spouse and has no family in the area. If they want to be with somebody, they can come out and sit with people. There’s a lot of people who can use a free meal occasionally. It helps out... It’s just to have somebody and be with somebody on Christmas day is the biggest thing.”
Mick, who formerly ran the Weston KFC, said he got involved in the dinner when Titus approached him in the 80s to ask that he make mashed potatoes and biscuits for the event.
“Another fellow and I slice 15 hams in preparation,” he added. “On Christmas morning, we arrive on location and put everything in the warmers at 3 a.m., and start delivering at the senior center at 9:30 a.m. We start serving at 10 a.m., and we serve until we run out of food.
“It’s really good food, I’ll tell you what,” Mick later added. “It’s really, really good stuff. I upped the fruit this year because we ran out last year.”
Jane Lew Volunteer Fire Department, along with their ladies auxiliary, gets involved in the event as well. The department has been involved for an estimated 10 years. Oldaker said they usually prepare prepare about 34 large turkeys in the course of two days leading up to the event. Mick said this year, there will be 32 turkeys.
“We put the first 10 in at 11 at night, and they come out in five hours,” he said. “We do three runs of 10.”
He said the firemen and auxiliary members also de-bone and deliver the turkeys.
“They used to get people in the area to do turkeys,” Oldaker said, adding that sometimes there wouldn’t be enough turkeys. “Through donations, they got enough to get the turkeys. As I went on, the firemen came aboard and the auxiliary, and it just came together great.”
Mick said most people who attend are very thankful. He said he’s been running the dinner for many years, and he’s ready to hand over the reigns to a person or organization willing to take it on and keep it going.
“It’s been a lot of years, and I’m to the point I need to back out of it somewhat,” he said. “I don’t know if I can get a church group or an organization or somebody to take it.”
To make a monetary donation for the annual dinners, make checks payable to: Lewis County Christmas Dinner and mail them to P.O. Box 1012, Weston, WV 26452.