Although it was 20 years ago, Carol Breit will never forget her father’s words when he described being alone on Christmas day in Pismo Beach.
“He said it was the worst Christmas he ever had,” Breit said. “He passed away the next year.”
Circumstances would not allow Carol and her husband Vic to be with her father that Christmas day, and she decided after that experience to hold a dinner for Mountain Area residents who would otherwise be alone on Christmas.
Last Friday was the 19th dinner the Breits provided for about 40 attendees at the Oakhurst Senior Center. The couple pays for food supplies out of their own pockets.
“They (Carol and Vic) are very caring people and they are very committed to doing this dinner every year,” Sandy Verlench said. “It’s a wonderful gesture to make sure people in our community are not alone on Christmas day.”
Verlench has been a loyal supporter of the dinner, having assisted the Breits every year since Carol invited her to the event 18 years ago.
“I love to see the warmth and happiness on the faces of people who attend as we welcome them at the front door,” said Verlench, who is a paid call firefighter with Station 12 in Oakhurst.
The dinner consisted of ham, turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, dinner rolls, and a cranberry jello salad. Prior to dinner, appetizers were provided with a selection of pies for dessert.
The Breits have been active in the community for many years. Carol began volunteering with Madera County Hospice in 1984 (later merging with Hinds Hospice in the mid 1990s), and provides free workshops for area caregivers through Valley Caregivers. For 30 years, she has served as an ombudsman for people in nursing homes in the Mountain Area. Vic has been a volunteer driver for the Madera County Escort Service for 15 years, and has spent another 10 years driving a county senior bus to get area residents to the grocery store, post office, and doctor appointments.
Roger and Elizabeth Baehne, 26-year residents of Coarsegold, attended the dinner for the tenth time.
“We used to do big family gatherings on Christmas day, but now our children and their families are far away,” Roger said. “Vic and Carol are great people who do a lot for this community.”
“I know a lot of these nice people and we enjoy coming here,” Elizabeth said. “Better than the two of us sitting at home.”
Roger, the retired 20-year superintendent of Los Angeles Valley College, turned 87 on Christmas day, and Vic Breit presented him with a cake after dinner. Elizabeth turned 86 on Dec. 13.
Bill Youngs, 90, moved to Oakhurst from Mountain View where he retired after 20 years doing electrical design work on the Stanford linear accelerator. He moved to be near his daughter after the loss of his second wife, and has volunteered at the Senior Center for 15 years - but has never attended the Christmas day dinner.
“I’ve heard about the dinner for a long time, and I’m glad I decided to go this year,” Youngs said. “I really enjoyed it. Carol and Vic do a magnificent job putting this dinner on.”