Sitting down, breaking bread with your friends and neighbors is usually the theme of the annual Galt Sunrise Rotary Community Dinner; however, faced with COVID-19 restrictions, members of the local Rotary shifted the focus from an in person hot meal, complete with a visit from St. Nick, to a drive-through boxed meal for the entire family event.

Held Saturday, Dec. 19 at Galt United Methodist Church, more than 175 food boxes were distributed, which serviced nearly 1,000 individuals, down more than 500 people usually served at the in-person hot meal event.

“One of our (Rotary) mottos is ‘Service Above Self’,” event organizer and Rotary member Grace Malson said. “Our community along with the rest of the world is going through some very difficult times right now. Galt Sunrise is committed to help the Galt community in whatever capacity we can. This year we were unable to have our sit down, dine in dinner where friends visit, have a warm meal and just enjoy each other’s company. Yet we knew there were those that would go without. Rather than just give up and cancel the event, we went with a distribution plan. With the help of the Galt community and volunteers, we were able to provide a meal to 982 individuals.”

Malson said that, during the planning stages of this year’s event, they felt teaming with the Methodist Church, which runs the Sunshine Food Pantry, was a natural fit, especially considering their “expertise” in logistics.

“A big generous thank you to the Galt Methodist Church for the use of their facility to assemble the boxes, donations from their own Food Pantry to add more items to our ‘menu’, and their parking lot for distribution; also for their expertise in guidance on how to figure out the logistics,” Malson said.

That logistical expertise was evident, as cars pulled up to receive their meal boxes complete with a frozen turkey, stuffing mix, butter, yams, potatoes, green beans, bread, eggs, dessert and more.

As cars entered the driveway, Santa himself greeted them, and either Santa or his elf helpers handed the driver pouches of hot chocolate. Vehicles then continued into the parking lot were a friendly volunteer packed their car with a box of the holiday staples. Boxes were labeled for the amount of people in each family, helping to speed up distribution.

Asked about the decision to shift the traditional dine-in community dinner to a drive through boxed meal event, Rotary President Mark King said that that was a tough question.

“There is nothing better than sitting down, breaking bread with your friends and neighbors,” King said. “However, through the lens of COVID-19 and resultant food insecurity, I feel this year’s Christmas dinner boxes fulfilled a much greater need and impacted more lives.”

And according to King, that’s right up Rotary’s alley.

“With ‘Service Above Self’ at its core, Rotary exists to improve the lives of others,” King said, “and, while our Community Christmas Dinner plans were thwarted this year, our commitment to the Galt community was not. So, we switched gears and made lemonade from our lemons. As usual, our local citizens, businesses, service organizations, community leaders and more rose to the occasion with donations of food, cash and time. We wish to convey our deepest appreciation for each and every penny, canned good, frozen turkey, dollar and hour of labor donated toward this effort. Galt will never forget the generosity, and neither will we.”

Malson and King would like to thank the following individuals, organizations and businesses for their generous donations of time, food and money:

Galt United Methodist Pastor Mary, Faye Gaines, Juliett Rodriquez, Dave Herburger, Pedro Ramos, Sean O’Neill, Betti Welch, Grace Malson, Zoe Malson-Page, Leesa Klotz, Winona Casity and her sister Waloha, Mukesh Patel (Santa), Paris, Jasan, Gabriella, Yanet, Lucero, Ximena, Mayor Shawn Farmer, Galt City Council Members Jay Vandenberg and Paul Sandhu, Vanessa Ochoa Alcaraz, Viraj Shah and his two children, Mary Beth Ospital, Steve Goldstein and his wife, Jerry Braxmeier, Judith King, Gary Goldsmith, Tiffany Moline, Linda Davenport, Liz Haglund, John Meotti, Geraldine Herrick, Winona Casity, Vinod Patel, Christina Milot, Ami Kellog, Melissa Moran, Jill Laurenzi, Lisa Veturelli, Tara Asvitt, Nintin Patel, Stevie Choate, Gale Coover, Angela Spease, Jennifer Shakleton, Erick Silva, Galt United Methodist Church, Save Mart, Walmart, Raley’s, Velvet Grill & Creamery, Jason Roach, Cal Waste, Brewsters, Lavine Insurance, Sana Accounting Services and many others.

“I feel that at the end of the day this impacted lives less fortunate than I,” Malson said. “I am pleased with the outcome and very grateful to the community for the help and support.”