“Reimagined” is a buzzword used by many organizations this year, as they look to figure out how to provide the same community programs, services and events under restrictive pandemic conditions.
Included in that mix are the congregants of the Monroe Temple, who since 2009 have partnered with volunteers at Our Father’s Kitchen, a program of the Sacred Heart Parish in Monroe, to plan and prepare a homemade Christmas dinner for needy and even lonely members of the community seeking a hot meal from the soup kitchen.
Volunteers were responsible for preparing, serving and hosting the afternoon’s events, which took weeks to plan. That partnership extended to the temple’s colleagues at nearby Congregation Eitz Chaim, who provided desserts and other donated items to make the day a festive one.
‘Armloads of food, toys and clothing, all donations’
“Every year, a hot meal was served, music was enjoyed, our guests left with armloads of food, toys and clothing, all donations,” said organizer Betsy Utnick. “Santa, a.ka. Rob Lipkin, and his elves made sure each child received a special gift directly from the North Pole every year from the beginning.”
But just as elves are known for their Christmas magic, these temple elves knew they’d need some mitzvah magic of their own to reimagine how dinner is provided.
“After speaking with representatives of Sacred Heart Parish Outreach it was decided 2020 needed a different approach,” said Utnick. “Food is given directly to families who are food insecure. On Dec. 12, boxes of non-perishable food was distributed in drive-up fashion to approximately 200 families. Children received Beanie Babies donated by the Monroe Temple.”
The emptiest shelves
The emptiest shelves, Utnick said, are those of Our Mother’s Cupboard, also a division of the Parish Outreach program. The cupboard provides supplies for children under age three.
“The best way we can assist Sacred Heart this season is with donations to Our Mother’s Cupboard,” said Utnick.
Items can be dropped off at the Monroe Temple, Plaza Optical in Monroe or Sacred Heart Chapel through the end of January.
Suggested items to donate are baby lotion, baby shampoo, baby food containing fruit only, baby cereal, PediaSure or other electrolytes for infants, pacifiers, Enfamil Formula, Desitin, diapers size 5 and 6 and baby bottles.
‘Hear the laughter of children’
“Little kids are expensive, at a time where so many are stretching personal resources consider sharing the cost of expensive items with another family making it a community effort,” added Utnick. “God willing, next year we will all be together again. I can see the easy smiles and happiness of our volunteers and guests. I hear the laughter of the children. I can feel the joy that helping another brings.