Despite some rainy, cloudy skies, hundreds strode into the Oakhurst Community Center 4 p.m. Friday and were greeted with a delicious dinner and an abundance of Christmas joy.
Until 8 p.m., the Outpouring Community Christmas Dinner offered up a full hot dinner, several classic holiday sweets such as pumpkin pie and sugar cookies, festive music from DJ Albert Figueroa of Fig Productions (forevergiving.com), and the warmth of the season.
Originating in 2009 through the Destiny Training Center and Epicenter Prayer Group, and hosted by Rebecca Kohout of Coarsegold and her family for the sixth year, the dinner, Kohout said, served as a way for the community to come together in Christmas spirit.
“It’s been something my family and I really enjoy doing to give back to the community,” Kohout said. “Everybody, including our volunteers, just have a lot of fun doing it. It’s all about giving back.”
An estimated 70 volunteers, including Kohout, her husband Ryan, her 13 siblings and parents Steve and Audrey spent the night serving up meals and smiles.
One important volunteer was Ursula Yates, who offered up snowman decorations for every table and a special full manger scene over the center’s fireplace.
Yates, in her third year volunteering at the event, said the inspiration to help came from another couple who told her though they couldn’t visit their families for Christmas, being with the community made the holiday just as special.
“This is absolutely about celebrating this wonderful community and coming together,” Yates said. “The Kohout family is wonderful too. It’s just a great time and totally worth it every year.”
The Oakhurst Raley’s donated breads and desserts this year, along with donations from a handful of people throughout the Mountain Area, Kohout said. Her family covered the remainder of the event’s estimated cost of more than $600, with 20 turkeys and 15 hams served during the event. Meals included all the holiday fixings such as mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, stuffing, sweet potatoes, coffee, and hot chocolate.
Santa was also scheduled to make a visit, Kohout said, with gifts planned for every child in attendance. Once some guests were finished eating, Figueroa, also of Coarsegold, started to play dance music that kids and adults alike celebrated with gusto while later arrivals were served their meal.
Several members of the Madera County Sheriff’s Citizens on Patrol unit provided security and assistance as well.
The atmosphere was festive, and the warmth of the spirit of Christmas could be felt by everyone. It was a great opportunity for the community to come together - old friends reuniting and new friendships made. Republicans and Democrats were even seen exchanging holiday pleasantries after a turbulent election season.
“I really appreciate all the help,” Kohout said of all the volunteers. “It couldn’t be done without them, or Ursula’s help, especially. They all make this happen.”