The spirit of giving back to the community was on display Monday as the Kiwanis Club's 29th annual Christmas Eve Dinner fed hundreds.
Club member Gloria Mendonca, one of the organizers of the dinner, said about 500 of the 900 meals prepared were delivered within the first 90 minutes of the three-hour event.
Those who weren't shut-ins, or suffering from a lack of transportation, ate at Fire Station No. 1, where they enjoyed the company of other community members, bought raffle tickets, watched children take pictures with Santa and shared in the holiday spirit.
"The more we feed, the happier I am," Mendonca said.
Carl Johnson volunteered to deliver food. He said he hasn't witnessed the same level of charitable endeavors when he's lived in larger cities.
"I've been involved with some toy drives in Atwater. The smaller towns are good for that, but I didn't see a lot of it when I lived in San Jose," he said.
Mayor Mike Villalta also delivered food, something he's done for decades through the Christmas Eve event.
"I love doing this," Villalta said. "This is just a part of my life and I plan on doing this as long as I have a driver's license."
He said that since Los Banos' inception, the city's resident have been willing to help others.
"This is a very giving community and it has a number of charities and fundraisers and I don't think that's ever going to stop," Villalta said.
The Kiwanis Christmas Eve Dinner has traditionally been a way to bring together the community and people who can't celebrate the holidays with someone special.
Although a down economy has slowed donations in recent times, the dinner was not in jeopardy this year because of diligent financial management of previous donations.
Jim Valentine, a co-organizer of the dinner, said he was pleased with this year's event. However, cooking for 900 people, even though it's a group effort, is time-consuming.
The dinner, which includes pasta, chicken, rolls, salad and pie, takes a little more than a day to prepare. Valentine, who spent five hours barbecuing chickens, took a moment to eat. He put everything on his plate except the fowl.
"I've been cleaning chicken, cooking chicken, I don't want to eat chicken," he joked.
Susan Briscoe, who attended the dinner, said she likes the consistency of the event and she wouldn't change anything the Kiwanis Club does at the dinner.
Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached by phone at (209) 388-6563, or by e-mail at cpride@losbanos
Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached by phone at (209) 388-6563, or by e-mail at cpride@losbanos enterprise.com