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A tradition of giving


Among the more than 150 people that attended the sixth annual SnowCap Christmas dinner were, back, from left, Amadeo Lopez, Haley and Maria Morales, and front, from left, Ibon, Angel and Edward Morales.
Mid-county Memo photos/Tim Curran
Elladonna, front, Amber and Kex Phillips pose at the sixth annual SnowCap Christmas Dinner held in the Rockwood United Methodist Church fellowship hall.
Before noon Christmas day, dozens of volunteers were ready to serve a specially prepared meal for diners at the SnowCaps annual Christmas dinner. The event, held in the decorated Rockwood United Methodist Church fellowship hall, attracted more than 160 people, according to Jeremy Wilebski, Snowcap Community Charities food procurement specialist.

Now in its sixth year (“SnowCap Christmas dinner feeds the needs of the season”, January 2008, Mid-county Memo), the Christmas dinner compliments SnowCap's other holiday offering, the longer running Thanksgiving fête.

Prepared by volunteers, the menu's entrée was a choice of prime rib or turkey, served with traditional stuffing, fluffy mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and a dessert of peach cobbler.

Diners were clients, families, neighbors and friends of SnowCap, a diverse mix that created a festive atmosphere rather than a dour, free dinner for the low-income, homeless, and hungry.

Later, children and adults headed to tables, benches and barrels overflowing with toys, books, games and stuffed animals to choose from the donated gifts.

60-year-old Bob Huddleson, a client who lives a few blocks away, said he has lived in Rockwood since 1964. The disabled auto mechanic and father of ten said he first went to SnowCap in the 70s, at its first office at Trinity Lutheran Church in Gresham, and returns when he needs help. “I've been getting help off and on since they were in Gresham,” Huddleson said. “This is really great what they do.” He is trying to go back to school to get his degree so he can teach auto mechanics. “I don't have a lot of time left to do it though,” he said.

Charles Garrison, who lives nearby and attends the Thanksgiving dinner with son Tommy and mom Diane said, “The food is really good; we really enjoy it.”

Heidi Ireland, another SnowCap neighbor, attended with her boyfriend Marco Smith and son Taylor Boord. Ireland said they also attended the Thanksgiving dinner. “The [SnowCap] people are really nice. They make us feel welcome, and the dinner is very good.”

Wilebski - Mt. Hood Community College Food Services Director when he started the dinner in 2007 with co-workers Josh Bearman and Darlene Ingram - said after volunteering at SnowCap's Thanksgiving dinner with his colleagues for a few years, they decided to add to SnowCap's outreach using their expertise to create a Christmas dinner. “We talked about it for so long, we just finally decided to do it,” Wilebski said.

He knew he would have to create the dinner from scratch, Wilebski said. He used food service contacts through work to procure food, co-workers to prepare it, and friends and family to set up, decorate, serve and clean up.

After his experience with SnowCap and creating the dinner, Wilebski said he knew he wanted to work there full time. “After my involvement with SnowCap, I wanted to try and get hired.”

His wife had completed school, so after seventeen years in the corporate world, he decided it was time for him to follow his passion. “It [corporate work] never felt as good as when I am helping people,” he said.

SnowCap Executive director Judy Alley said, “Jeremy has been a real asset to our organization. He is smart, compassionate and hard working. We are very lucky to have him.”

“My ultimate goal is to not have it,” Wilebski said. “I wish the need wasn't as high as it was.”
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