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Christmas dinner a tradition at St. Gall

by Jo Rafferty

What was it seven years ago that guided Rita Hill to start offering dinners for those who are alone on Christmas? Could it have been a passing thought, or could it have been the spirit of Christmas?

All Hill knows is that on Thanksgiving Day 1999 she couldn’t stop thinking about an elderly woman from her church, St. Gall Catholic Church, whose husband had died and had no children. This “persistent internal prompting” wouldn’t go away. She decided to give the woman a call.

“She said she was in her nightie, and that she was depressed since she had no family to be with,” said Hill.

Hill invited the woman, Noel Farrell, to her own family Thanksgiving dinner gathering, and Hill said she felt proud to have made Farrell so happy. But then something else occurred to her.

“All of a sudden it popped into my head that other people are alone, too,” said Hill. “I went to talk to (Father Bill Nadeau) and asked him what I should do.”

She and the former pastor of St. Gall decided that it would be a good idea to host a Christmas dinner on Christmas for those who had no place to go – whether they be single, a married couple or a single parent with child.

The first dinner was held at a house in Genoa and the second at the pastor’s house.

Since then, the church has held a Christmas dinner every year. Hill has been at all the dinners except one when she decided to spend Christmas with her own family. That year the dinner didn’t go as well as she would have wished, and she plans to be at future dinners to make sure everyone truly has a Merry Christmas.

“I have a family too, and they bear with me,” said Hill. “It’s about making (others) happy on Christmas.”

Farrell was able to attend two of the Christmas dinners before she passed away, but not without knowing that the event had been named after her, the Noel Christmas Dinner.

Now, each year on Christmas guests can look forward to a wine, cold drink and cheese social hour followed by Christmas dinner and opening presents under a Christmas tree.

Last year there were seven people who donated to the dinner, 19 guests, 21 guests who were also volunteers and four people who just volunteered.

“A whole bunch of handy helpers come together,” said Hill. “They just make this thing work.”

The seventh annual Noel Christmas Dinner will take place on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Gall Pastoral Center, 1343 Centerville Lane, Gardnerville.

“It is a chance to meet new friends and become part of a new family,” said Hill. “Much fun and laughter are shared by all who attend.”

Each person, or couple, will receive a written invitation to the event, which helps plan the amount of food to prepare. Event planners need to find out the name, address and phone number of the guest and whether they’re single or a married couple, or a single parent with a child.

Volunteers are needed and are invited to attend the dinner, too.

To receive a written invitation, to volunteer or for more information, call Rita Hill, event coordinator, at 783-9908. If she is unavailable, please leave your name and phone number at the beep and she will return your call.