Sunday, December 20, at the Downtown Sheraton Hotel, I attended the 28th annual Fr. Woody Dinner and Present give-away. This event, organized by Holy Ghost Church, downtown, and lots of folks from Regis University, inoculates me for the rest of the holiday season as to what this season of the year is all about. I feel better just knowing that several thousand families, lots of children this year, got a great turkey dinner and an individually matched present based on age, size and gender. For the past few months students at Regis University wrapped the thousands of presents. I had been assigned as an elf to bring presents to the tables, but they had enough, so they said, "Just be the good auditor that you are and go around spreading smiles and good cheer." So I did and I had a great time. To smiling mothers holding babes in arms I said: "Tu sonrisa es bonita." "Your smile is beautiful," and they smiled all the more.
Out of the corner of my eye I spied Fr. Michael Sheeran, S. J., President of Regis University, kneeling beside a table full of eager youngsters as to what presents they might like. You just don't get that at some of our public universities. And seeing so many former Regis students who were volunteering for the event, brought back happy memories of my teaching days at Regis. Many still call me "Senator" which I was when I taught many of them. Lovey Shipp, Holy Ghost parishioner, wished everyone leaving a "Merry Christmas," to which many guests replied, "Thank you." She said, "The thanks goes to you for being here."
A chorus of older but radiant women sang many old time favorites which raised everyone's spirits. Fr. John Lager of the Samaritan Shelter directed traffic in his brown Franciscan robe. Fr. John waved people to waiting tables with the authority of a traffic patrolman.
The luncheon fare boasted roast turkey breast, big slices, potatoes and gravy, dressing and all the trimmings. The plates heaped high equaled the sumptuous feast served the day before Thanksgiving at Rescue Mission.
Denver's famous Rescue Mission in downtown Denver plays host to thousands of Denver's homeless and needy by serving an excellent turkey dinner, supplemented with salad and rolls. The Governor, Mayor and lots of Council Members also help serve the individual lunches for the people at the mission. Tom Noel, Dr. Colorado, and my brother Tim serve a shift and it is always great fun.
At North High School gym, Councilman Paul Lopez, sponsored his annual food box packing event. I bet a thousand neighbors from North and West Denver lined up in long rows to fill boxes full of oranges, apples, canned goods, bread and vegetables. Did I mention a box of dressing topped the stuffed boxes donated by Coors Brewery. Mayor and Council took their spots in line to fill the boxes delivered to families in need and many older people.
Let us hope that our nation moves to long term systemic changes that will lower the need for food lines, lunch lines and box give-aways. And let us be thankful that there are Americans who still care enough to pitch in to help their fellow citizens in tough times.