Volunteers cook up plans to meet demand for Christmas meals

GLOVERSVILLE – The Church of the Holy Spirit is preparing to meet more demand for meals during its 16th annual free Christmas dinner delivery.

“We are going to be serving more meals than we ever have before,” organizer Don Fleischut said. “The need is greater than ever before.”

Fleischut said last year, about 1,400 meals were made last year – which was about 500 more than in 2011.

When the church began the dinner in 1998, organizers said they served 234 meals.

Fleischut said he thinks a lot of people use the service because the Meals on Wheels program doesn’t make deliveries on the holiday.

“Last year was an all-time high,” Fleischut said. “Fortunately, we are prepared for it. The economy and lack of good-paying jobs has increased the need in this area.”

With great demand comes a lot of work for the volunteers.

Fleischut said he encourages more people to lend a hand and help with the cooking or deliveries on Christmas morning.

Volunteers from the community assemble at the church every year to put together traditional Christmas meals, including turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables and pie. The church also gives out free gift bags filled with essentials families may need, including hotel soaps and shampoo.

Volunteers in the kitchen are needed at 7 a.m. on Christmas morning at the Community Center of the church, at 161 S. Main St.

Delivery volunteers should arrive at 9 a.m. at the same address.

He said the volunteers include about a hundred people ranging from families, couples, community leaders and teens who take the time to lend a hand. He said many of these volunteers will be showing up as early as 5 a.m.

Greg Gottung, a volunteer for the last 15 years, said he became involved because helping others is what Christmas is all about.

“Christmas is not about what you get, it’s about what you give,” he said.

Gottung is in charge of organizing the deliveries and said the biggest need is for drivers in the outlying communities, including Mayfield, Northville and Caroga Lake.

“We could always use more [drivers],” Gottung said. “All they basically have to do is pick [meals] up and deliver them as they head home.”

Those requesting more information on volunteering, making a donation or donating a turkey or pie can call Don Fleischut at 725-5474.

Fleischut said the kitchen will be staffed with volunteers cutting fresh-baked pies, slicing turkey, preparing gravy, scooping vegetables and stuffing, and finally packaging the hot meals for delivery.

The outreach program was initiated in 1998 by volunteers from the Catholic Community of Sacred Heart of Gloversville. In 2008, Sacred Heart and St. Mary of Mount Carmel merged to form the Church of the Holy Spirit, which continues the Christmas dinner.

A delivered meal will be available to anyone in the region who requests a hot dinner for the holiday.

“Anyone who asks can get a meal delivered to their home on Christmas morning,” Fleischut said.

The church is able to deliver these annual Christmas dinners for free to the community through donations from area residents and the many volunteers who dedicate their time, Fleischut said.

The meals are free to anyone who wants one, but there is a four-meal maximum per location.

Reservations for a meal can be made until Christmas morning by calling 725-3143, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to noon.