FULTON, NY – When it comes to celebrating the holiday season, enjoying a Christmas dinner with friends is as anticipated as presents under the Christmas tree.
Unfortunately, for many of Oswego County Opportunities’ consumers the thought of actually having a festive Christmas dinner may not be a possibility.
However, thanks to OCO and Oswego County Federal Credit Union that thought became a reality when OCO hosted its annual Residential Consumer Dinner.
With the many human services programs OCO offers no one is more aware of the needs that exist in our county more than the agency’s staff members and volunteers.
Five years ago OCO staff decided it would be a great idea to make the holidays a little more memorable by providing OCO’s residential consumers with a Christmas dinner.
“We wanted to do something really special for these consumers,” said OCO Human Resources Specialist Jo-Lyn Phillips. “Our residential consumers are often amongst the population that is often forgotten at Christmas time. They may be in recovery from substance abuse, experiencing mental illness or are homeless and trying to find their way in the world. Many do not have family or are suffering monumental hardships that most of us cannot imagine. For many who attend, it is the first time they have eaten from a real plate. We pull out all the stops and do everything we can to make those who attend feel welcome and valued. They are our guests for the evening! Christmas decorations adorn the dining room; tables are set with cloth linens and napkins, dinnerware, glasses and finished off with holiday themed centerpieces. We do everything in our power to make these people feel welcome and valued. Last year, one of the participants said, ‘Wow! This is the fanciest restaurant I have ever been in.’ It isn’t a restaurant at all, Prince of Peace Church graciously allows us to host the dinner in its fellowship hall, but hearing that and seeing the expressions on our consumers faces is what makes all the work worthwhile!”
To raise funds for the dinner OCO employees held drawings and other in-house fundraisers.
While they were successful in doing so it was not an easy task to raise enough funds to cover the cost of a complete dinner for the agency’s increasing amount of residential consumers.
This year, for the first time, OCO employees received some unexpected, but much needed help to do so.
After discussing the dinner with OCO Executive Director Diane Cooper-Currier, Bill Carhart of Oswego County Federal Credit Union decided to provide the funding for the meal as well as for some of the party activities that followed.
“Oswego County Federal Credit Union believes very strongly in supporting the communities we serve,” said Chief Executive Officer Carhart. “Partnering with OCO to provide community members a brighter holiday season was an easy decision to make.”
In addition to the funding several Oswego County Federal Credit Union employees volunteered to help prepare and serve the dinners, and assist with cleaning up following the event.
“We were thrilled to say the least,” said Phillips. “OCO staff volunteers do everything from food prep and set-up and serving dinners to leading the after dinner activities and clean-up. We greatly appreciate the fact that several Oswego County Federal Credit Union employees chose to volunteer as well. We can’t thank Oswego County Federal Credit Union and its employees enough. They helped us brighten the spirit of our residential consumers and make this year’s Consumer Dinner one they are sure to remember. ”