A small gym in a small school transforms every December 25th, not unlike a stable in Bethlehem. At the Bounty of Bethlehem, a free, volunteer-run Christmas Day dinner at Immaculata Catholic School in Hendersonville, there is an overflowing of hospitality for anyone who walks through the gym doors. All for free.
Strangers eating turkey, mashed potatoes and green beans family-style on Christmas Day become family in minutes. “It feeds people in so many different ways,” says Randy Hair, who is lead volunteer with Bounty of Bethlehem. “Bounty is very flexible and inviting to anyone.”
Reporters usually ask Randy about “the numbers” — how many meals are served onsite and delivered (3,000), how many volunteers pitch in (600), and how many turkeys are donated (more than 200). And, of course, this is also Bounty’s 30th year.
But Randy, who is also the facilities manager at Immaculata and Immaculate Conception Church, says Bounty is about so much more than numbers or even organizational history.
“I can’t say what Bounty will be for any individual. It’s almost like a pilgrimage,” he says. “It’s a very personal journey. In the time of Advent preparation, we are supposed to be doing these things in preparation for the birth of Christ.”
Randy, 53, is a parishioner at Immaculate Conception and a Secular Franciscan. A license plate on the front of his truck quotes St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” Randy and his wife, Laureen, and their two children, Matthew and Bethany, all volunteer with Bounty; vacation days are divided between Bounty and a Christian summer camp in West Virginia.
Randy will be assigning jobs to a cast of recurring characters, including Terry Clever, who has cooking green beans down to a science; Sam, the mashed potato man, who also leads Christmas songs and debones hams; and Mark the Mop, who ran a big hospital system but comes to mop floors like he did in the Navy.
“We make our work as labor-intensive as possible,” Randy says — to make more volunteer jobs. “You can never tell what somebody’s need is.”
To learn more about Bounty of Bethlehem call 693-5115 or visit www.bountyofbethlehem.org.