Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

It's All Good

Katonah’s Westchester Christmas Dinner



Families in need celebrate the holiday—and meet Santa himself—in Katonah at the annual Westchester Christmas Dinner.

Photo by Jessica Sterner

In today’s turbulent times, it can be hard to find anything that’s good. That’s just all good. A newborn baby. A rainbow. Elizabeth Warren (ok, that may be subjective). Well, every year during the holidays, we have our very own local example of astonishing goodness. On December 25th, the community hosts the Westchester Christmas Dinner, a gathering of our area’s most needy individuals and families who are greeted with warmth, companionship, and a hot holiday meal.

This 22-year tradition started by Mary Jordan, who has since handed over the reins to Licia Sandberg and Ben Harvey, is an unaffiliated event that takes place at Saint Mary’s Church in Katonah. And every single thing down to the last piece of equipment and tray of mashed potatoes is donated to the cause. Not to mention the hundreds of volunteers who bring it to life.

While Sandberg and Harvey keep their eye on the process all year, many volunteers begin working in the days leading up to Christmas. Starting December 23rd, there is a whirlwind of activity in gathering refrigeration equipment, tables and chairs, as well as several dozen roast turkeys and hams that will appear on what is called “the buffet line.” Guests who attend receive much-coveted tickets through non-profit agencies, such as Hope’s Door, and are bused to Katonah. For Sandberg and most volunteers, it’s always a family affair. And with good reason. 

She says, “My philosophy is that we are not going to get thoughtful citizens unless they start out life as thoughtful people. The dinner naturally begets many questions about who has what in this world. If I’m asked what my secret is to raising my two boys, I say the dinner is my secret.”

Though called a “dinner,” the event encompasses far more in terms of providing a meaningful holiday to those who need it most. Guests are given the opportunity to shop in a kind of pop-up store of gently-used clothing, as well as given several useful and fun holiday gifts. Who gets what? Well, it’s up to the elves. Yes, elves. Head elf Hope Mazzola, who has been volunteering for 12 years, explains that her team of more than 30 people (dressed up to play their role) greets guests and asks the children in particular, what they would like from Santa.

The gift room overflows with coats, pajamas, dolls, elaborate Lego sets, puzzles, books, and more. Kids who would otherwise be empty-handed, leave with armfuls of educational and fun toys. Mazzola says she spends the few days leading up to the dinner working non-stop to organize and sort out her department. This kind of dedication is seen across the board. Sandberg has even taken extra steps to make the dinner environmentally responsible. There is extensive recycling and composting in place, so little trash is generated.

Jamer Breene says, “Everyone behind the scenes is in T-shirts and jeans getting hugely messy. And we’re all happy to do it.”

For the hundreds of local businesses that contribute their food, wares, or services, it’s an opportunity to play an important role in our small community. 

Gary Levine of Bedford Bagel & Bakery says, “If everybody did a little something to help, this would be a better world. We take care of people. It’s just what we do.”

And while the guests may appear to be the ones who benefit the most, the dinner resonates with everyone who participates. The atmosphere is one of celebration that shows in the music, laughter, and joy that permeates the event. 

Long-time volunteer Frank Iorio says, “It’s a really tough day for some people, and just to hear and see the happiness is what the holidays are all about. This is what makes our community amazing. People reach across. They don’t see barriers they see bridges.”

Add your comment:

Connect With Us

             

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Ten Minutes With a Human-Rights Pioneer

Alison Boak founded The International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA)

Good Guy in the Gorge

Flipping the script for positive change

Uplifters: Sonia Bain

Local commercial real estate attorney helps women in the field get mentors and funds

Uplifters: Blakeley Lowry

Local woman helps provide support and education for post-partum depression

Uplifters: Patricia Mulligan

Local lawyer helps local women grow their businesses and fight sexual harassment

Profiles

Your Guides to Leading Local Professionals

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

January 2019

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

The Imagination Movers are a rock band for families and the Emmy-winning stars of a hit TV series seen worldwide on the Disney Junior channel. There are 76 episodes of "Imagination Movers...

Cost: $22.50 - $70.00

Where:
Wall StreetTheater
71 Wall Street
Norwalks, CT  06850
View map »


Sponsor: Wall Street Theater
Telephone: (203) 831-5004
Contact Name: Jeanne Moore
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Make some snow slime using glue, fake snow, and liquid starch!Ages 7 and olderRegistration Required - 914-864-0130Sponsored by the Friends of the LibraryLocation of event - downstairs in the kids...

Cost: No Cost

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Sponsor: Friends of the Library
Telephone: 914-666-8041

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

With the New Year and cold winter months officially upon us (and quite possibly a few viruses floating around), learn how essential oils can help boost your immunity.  Participants will make a...

Cost: No Cost

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Telephone: 914-666-8041

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Learn to make earrings while helping a good cause.For every pair of earrings you make, make another pair that will be donated to a battered women's shelter.Sponsored by the Friends of the...

Cost: No Cost

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Sponsor: Friends of the Library
Telephone: 914-666-8041

More information

The Bruce Museum is pleased to present two special presentations that will provide fascinating insights into breakthroughs in the field of medicine in the nineteenth century – and how these...

Cost: Museum members and students with ID free; nonmembers $15

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Drop in for help with any of your technology devices.  No appointment necessary.  First come first served.   PC, Google, Microsoft savvy volunteer with help you with troubleshooting,...

Cost: No Cost

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Telephone: 914-666-8041

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Celebrate Penguin Awareness Day (January 20th) by creating an adorable penguin of your own! Ages 4 to 11 (under 5 with caregiver) Sponsored by the Friends of the Library Location of event -...

Cost: No Cost

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Sponsor: Friends of the Library
Telephone: 914-666-8041

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Hartford Boat Show (HBS50) features the newest boats on the market including center consoles, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, deck and pontoon boats, sport and...

Cost: $12 in advance online, $14 at the door, $10 Senior/Military one day pass

Where:
Expo Center at Mohegan Sun
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT  06382
View map »


Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Do you have a startup you’re trying to get off the ground? Are you thinking about starting your own business? Are you a solopreneur who’s trying to do it all? Everyone needs a...

Cost: no charge with one-day pass or membership

Where:
Martin House Workspace
69 Westchester Avenue
Pound Ridge, NY  10576
View map »


Sponsor: Martin House Workspace
Telephone: 914-764-3128
Contact Name: Erin Trostle

More information

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Hartford Boat Show (HBS50) features the newest boats on the market including center consoles, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, deck and pontoon boats, sport and...

Cost: $12 in advance online, $14 at the door, $10 Senior/Military one day pass

Where:
Expo Center at Mohegan Sun
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT  06382
View map »


Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Hartford Boat Show (HBS50) features the newest boats on the market including center consoles, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, deck and pontoon boats, sport and...

Cost: $12 in advance online, $14 at the door, $10 Senior/Military one day pass

Where:
Expo Center at Mohegan Sun
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT  06382
View map »


Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags