For more than 30 years, Bounty of Bethlehem has brought hope, festivity, and a full stomach to residents of Hendersonville and nearby areas who need to eat a good meal and socialize with good neighbors. An army of volunteers — up to 500 — hosts a free meal on Christmas Day in the gym of Immaculata Catholic School, as well as delivering to-go meals for less-mobile folks. (They also sponsor a toy drop.)
A sudden leadership switch in 2015 led to a temporary fear of the event’s demise, as we reported last December (www.boldlife.com/volunteer-powered-dinner-is-generations-strong/).
And while marketing-and-fundraising director Denise Lingenfelter confirmed to Bold Life this week that the org is back on track — the current chairperson is former volunteer Richard Knust — she also notes that November’s wildfires, plus other hardships in a troubling year, have widened the circle of people in need.
“The good news,” she says, “is that our new team players are still with us, and we are not starting over from scratch, like we did last year. So we’re not behind schedule because of that dilemma.” The emergency has increased on the other end, though. As of December 19, Bounty of Bethlehem had significantly less than half of what it needed in cash donations ($8,000 of the $25,000 goal) to feed the thousands of folks they expect on Christmas Day, according to Lingenfelter.
She also reports that the toy-collection stations are still “looking light” — drop-off spaces are at Miller’s Cleaners (423 North King St.) and at Mast General Store (527 North Main St.). The group will accept donations of toys at Immaculata School (8am-5pm through Christmas Eve), too, along with gifts of turkeys and hams.
Although the regular group of volunteers is turning out in strong numbers to cook and serve food, Lingenfelter says “we could still use some people to do the non-exciting stuff, like cleaning.”
Thankfully, Bounty of Bethlehem’s food-delivery initiative recently got a major boost. The volunteers who dress as Santa and his two helpers quietly donated 65 turkeys to the operation. Lingenfelter praises the men’s “low-key” gesture, part of the overall spirit of the event, where, she says, no one who shows up for a meal is turned away.
“We don’t question. We don’t judge. We don’t limit.”
Bounty of Bethlehem serves dinner in the gymnasium at Immaculata Catholic School (711 Buncombe St., Hendersonville) from 12:30-5pm on Christmas Day. For information about volunteering, call Joann at 828-702-9765. www.thebountyofbethlehem.org