Five-year-old tradition brings smiles to community

Posted Dec. 25, 2008, at 7:59 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:04 a.m.

OAKFIELD, Maine — Sitting in front of a handwritten list of names of shut-ins with cardboard-covered boxes of pumpkin pie at his feet Thursday, Oakfield resident Randy Rockwell remembered a Christmas delivery he made a few years ago.

He had come to the woman’s door bearing a complete meal of turkey and all the fixings, which he carried into her home and to the dining room. The first thing he recalled, he said Thursday, was that she didn’t have a single Christmas decoration anywhere — no Christmas tree, no sparkling lights, no statues of elves or Santa Claus and his reindeer.

What was sadder, however, was what he saw at the kitchen table.

“It was time for Christmas dinner and all that she had on her table was a half-eaten peanut butter sandwich,” he recalled.

Rockwell left the woman not only with a warm traditional dinner but also a smile from ear to ear.

For the past five years, the Bethel Pentecostal Church in Oakfield has held a free sit-down Christmas dinner or delivered the meal to shut-ins. Countless volunteers, under the direction of organizer Lorraine Cullins, spend all day cooking and serving the noon meal.

Delivery drivers take the meals to shut-ins in Oakfield and also to those in such towns as Island Falls, Houlton, Littleton and Amity.

Rockwell said he does it not only for the joy of helping others, but also to “see people smile.”

“I love people, and each time you see that smile of gratitude or pleasure on someone’s face when you help them out, it is all worth it,” he said Thursday afternoon as he coordinated a list of shut-ins for delivery drivers who had come to the church. “I’ve done this every year since it has been in existence and I never tire of it.”

Neither does Cullins, a church member who first had the idea while at choir practice five years ago.

“Five years ago I had a desire in my heart,” she said, tearing up as she recalled the memory. “I mentioned to the choir what I wanted to do and they just jumped on board. That year we served 87 people, and last year we served more than 200 people.”

Inside the church Thursday, tables were adorned with shiny silverware and decorative flowers. Those spaces were reserved for those who could actually make it to the meal site.

A short distance away, volunteers dished heaping spoonfuls of turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry, dressing, coleslaw, peas, gravy, squash and a roll into styrofoam containers for delivery.

Cullins said the church cooked 15 turkeys brought in by parishioners and that several Aroostook County businesses and groups donated the remaining food.

Over the years, Cullins said, the church has seen an increased number of people who not only can’t afford Christmas dinner, they can’t afford much food at all.

“People are struggling,” she said.

Once the meal was over and the kitchen clean, many volunteers said they planned to go home and celebrate with their own Christmas dinner.

One exception, however, was Cullins.

“I am always way too tired after this to eat,” she said Thursday.

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