Santa’s elves appeared in the guise of Mike Sarabia and his family, sister-in-law Lori Bentley, Brick and Marty Wall and Sue Allen who came to the shelter Sunday afternoon for a great brunch prepared by chef Dennis. After the table was cleared and the kitchen returned to proper order, the group convened to the ‘wrapping room’ for our annual wrapping party. The elves filled sixty bags, each with a blanket, hat, gloves, and socks. A second package contained assorted candies, cookies, toothbrush, toothpaste, rain poncho, comb, scarf, hand lotion, and other goodies. The Catholic Daughters of America from St. Mark’s Church contributed 60 bulging stockings packed to the brim. A wonderful group of women from St. Thomas the Apostle come every year bearing gifts and donations also.
We raise a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve outside the doors for our guests to decorate. It enlivens the Christmas spirit and gives each man a sense of ownership in this magical time of the year. Once our guests are off to bed, the stockings are hung and the gifts are placed under the tree. Each guest receives two gifts and a stocking overflowing with love and surprises. No guest leaves without the gifts and stocking. There is no naughty or nice at the St. Francis Shelter where love and service are unconditional. This year, we even had a gift for one guest’s dog!
With the help of staffers Robert and Jordan, Chef Dennis does his magic and creates an evening meal worthy of no less than three kings! Turkey and ham with a mountain of mashed potatoes and green beans smothered in an ocean of gravy followed by pumpkin and pecan pie! No one went to bed hungry on Christmas Eve at the St. Francis Shelter.
Well before first light appears on the horizon, Donna McDermott and her family tiptoe into the kitchen to prepare breakfast for staff and guests. Everyone shares hearty portions of bacon, sausage, eggs, and pancakes. What a great Christmas morning for a whole lot of people. Everyone smiles, volunteers and guests, and all with good reason in this season full of cheer.
Next event is New Year’s Eve. Each guest will receive a party hat, a lei, and a noise maker. Another spectacular dinner awaits the guests, and at 8:59 pm Arizona time, we do a countdown as guests, staff and volunteers raise glasses of sparkling cider for the 9:00 pm toast to bring in the new year. Fireworks light up the sky as we yell out, “HAPPY NEW YEAR!”
We need volunteers to help out on New Year’s Eve. If you can help, please contact us at:
It has been a spectacular holiday season at the St. Francis Shelter. Hopefully, we are building traditions that will endure time to put cheer into cheerless lives each holiday season. Thank you so much to all that contributed to help as donors and/or volunteers. May God bless and keep you all. I am amazed each year as our friends of St. Francis Family grows. What a blessing it is to be in the middle of all this caring and compassionate family that exists only to build human dignity and to proclaim it on the streets of Tucson.
Wishing you all a blessed holiday and a very, very Happy New Year
Carl Zawatski – Director St. Francis Shelter