Sisters savor success of Christmas meal

December 28, 2005

Sheila Shearer and Mona Edwards are giving their sore feet a rest this week – but they are feeling very satisfied with the turnout at the community Christmas dinner they organized.

“I’m going to be giving her a massage since her feet are killing her,” said Shearer, a licensed massage therapist in Hood River.

Voluteer Kim Mix brings out ripe pears, above, and dinner organizer Sheila Shearer, below right, shares a laugh with volunteer Mary Ann Hay, at the Christmas meal.

Edwards flew in from Florida the week before the holiday to help Shearer with preparations. The sisters, who had not seen each other for three years, logged in hours of prep time on the complimentary meal.

They wanted to provide a first-class turkey dinner with all the trimmings for people who did not have family in the area to celebrate with. Shearer even arranged for musical entertainment from the Red Haired Boys to liven up the event.

“I believe that when you set the tone people pick up on it and we wanted this to be light and fun,” she said.

But Shearer believes that she and Edwards were the true beneficiaries of the outreach effort. Seeing 100 people enjoying the meal they had cooked was a treat in itself, said Shearer. She said it was equally touching to have numerous volunteers step forward to donate food items and labor.

Above, Sheila Shearer’s son, Kyle Canty of Seattle,

mashes a big batch of potatoes.

In fact, she was amazed at the generosity of both individuals and area businesses. Shearer said a man in a cowboy hat even strolled into the basement of St. Mary’s Catholic Church to survey for himself what needed to be done.

She said he introduced himself simply as Buford and ended up bringing down a propane burner to help cook piles of peeled potatoes. Shearer said she never learned his last name, but Buford was a real “kick.”

“People came out of the woodwork to help. I think everyone got a lot of joy out of working for something that was bigger than themselves,” said Shearer.

She said the commercialism of Christmas has long troubled her – and organizing the feast seemed a much more suitable way to celebrate the season of giving.

In fact, Edwards was so impressed with all of the community support that she decided to move to Hood River. Especially since Shearer has agreed to consider serving instant mashed potatoes in 2006.

“Buford told me, ‘Honey, you’d better go for the mashed next year, there’s nothing wrong with them,’” she said.

Shearer said the festivities on Dec. 25 were also a perfect foil for her 55th birthday. In fact, she plans to celebrate the same way next year – with a minor addition.

Diners Venette Duckwall, left, and Doris Fogle did as they do every Sunday after attending church at Christian Missionary Alliance: they went to dinner. Venette wears a shirt owned by her late husband, Dick. “He’s got his arms around me,” she said.

She believes that deliveries also need to be made to homebound seniors. Although she provided take-out containers, Shearer said many people don’t have someone available on that day to pick up their meal.

“I think there is a real need for this service and I plan to do it again next year. It was just so much fun,” she said.

On Monday, Shearer and Edwards held their own celebration for her birthday. They didn’t feel like cooking so they went to a Denny’s, where Shearer ordered her first senior meal. Their dinner conversation turned to a discussion of Edward’s pending cross-country move.

Shearer said her sister has been very impressed with the friendliness of the local residents that she has met so far. And how quickly they offered help once the dinner plans were publicized.

“I said, ‘Mona, this is the place for you to be. You were only here four days and you already made the front page of the newspaper,’” said Shearer.

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