Sebastopol nonprofits spread Christmas Eve cheer in meal giveaway

The event replaced the typical sit-down dinner on Christmas as a result of the pandemic.|

Sebastopol community groups came together Thursday afternoon to spread Christmas Eve cheer with a grocery giveaway for families in need during the holiday season.

Members of various nonprofits assembled at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts also discovered their philanthropic endeavor boosted their own spirits. They had not seen much of each other since original public health emergency stay-home orders went into effect in mid-March as a result of the coronavirus.

“As Rotarians we haven’t gotten together since March. We have been meeting on Zoom every week,” said Michael McGlothlin of the Rotary Club of Sebastopol Sunrise and an organizer of the food giveaway. “This is a reunion for us, too.”

The volunteers placed 300 holiday meal boxes into the back of vehicles that area residents pulled through the parking lot of the center. Each one contained a frozen chicken, vegetables, rolls and a dessert to feed a family of four. The Rotary club typically hosts a sit-down Christmas dinner at Sebastopol Community Church, but the pandemic forced the cancellation of that event — so the meal giveaway was the alternative.

Michael Dei, commander of the West Sonoma County Veterans of Foreign Wars, agreed it was nice to see his fellow veterans in person and it gave him some ideas of what his organization could do in 2021 with its community outreach. The VFW has been stymied this year, scrapping events like its annual car show to raise money.

“It’s great to feel like we are doing something good. It’s hard to find a way to do things now,” said Dei, who served in the Iraq War.

He would like to work with some of the other groups at the Thursday event on future efforts to help leverage the manpower and expenses to provide the greatest amount of community help. The other Rotary Club in Sebastopol also participated.

The arts center is a major hub of community interactions during a normal year, with events such as the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival in the spring.

“I feel that every nonprofit, every organization should work very much together,” said Catherine Devriese, the center’s creative director. “Otherwise, this building will be empty.”

The arts center has been put to some other good use this year. It hosts a supervised distance-learning program for local elementary school students. They are socially distanced from classmates as their teacher provides instruction via Zoom. Each classroom has adults present to provide additional supervision.

Rotarian McGlothlin was hopeful the annual Sebastopol Christmas dinner can return next year, noting that for many in the town of more than 7,000 residents it’s as much a social event as a chance to give back to fellow citizens.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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