Was Bounty 2010 really a Christmas Miracle?
A brief history of The Bounty Of Bethlehem
We would like to present the history of the Bounty Of Bethlehem Christmas Dinner. If you know any of Bounty's earliest history, or heartwarming stories to tell about your experiences with the Bounty Christmas Dinner, please submit them, and I will consider publishing the best ones here for all to enjoy.
Does anyone know how and when the event was named, "Bounty Of Bethlehem," and by whom?
In the summer of 1982, Ken Knox, a parishioner from the Immaculate Conception Church, had an idea to prepare a dinner for the needy of Henderson County. Ken consulted with Father Paul Wilderotter, who was the pastor, and he also agreed that it was a great idea. Janet Witte (who had nine children, therefore great experience in keeping things under control) volunteered to be chairperson of the dinner. She and her assistant, Janet Jones began the mammoth task of organization.
Ken Knox contacted several business owners to see if he could obtain sufficient food. Jimmy Schweitzer (of Jimmy's Pizza) agreed to donate several turkeys, which got the food drive off to a great start, and also inspired other businesses to donate as well. Ken also contacted many social service agencies in Hendersonville to help pass the word to people who might wish to attend the dinner.
Janet Witte & Janet Jones also helped to coordinate donations for the dinner, which in addition to money, included turkeys, hams, cranberries, salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, vegetables, rolls, beverages and desserts. Fruit and poinsettias were also donated and given to the guests.
It was estimated that more than 150 people from several churches were involved in donating food and money, baking and cooking, decorating the tables and serving the dinner.
Susie Maney and Ellen Carland volunteered to roast turkeys at their homes, and they solicited others to help them prepare all of the rest of the donated food.
It was decided that Immaculata School Gymnasium would be the perfect place to host the dinner, and that is where it was held on Christmas Day, 1982.
As plans for this special dinner became known throughout the community via the news media and by word of mouth, people began to write or call in to let it be known that they wanted to attend. It also became known that there were other people who would like to attend, but had no means of transportation, or for other reasons, would not be able to come. Ken Knox then organized a group of people who would either act as, "taxi drivers," or who would deliver meals to the people's homes. (This account comes to us from one of those drivers who wishes to remain anonymous, and who delivered meals to those people on that first Christmas Dinner.) He says, "I was one of those drivers, and the experiences of meeting people whose living conditions were much worse than ours were enough to bring tears to our eyes (but joy to our hearts) to know that we could brighten up their day in some small way."
For that first Christmas Dinner, enough food was prepared for 400. In addition to serving the 200 people who showed up to eat, approximately 40 dinners were delivered to people's homes. Food was also taken to people who had to work on Christmas Day, including firemen, policemen, EMT's, and hospital workers. Over 100 meals were donated to Ministry 7 of Hendersonville, an outreach to the street people. Money donated to the dinner and not used was also donated to Ministry 7 to go towards a new halfway house.
The event was considered a great success, and continued each year at the Immaculata School Gymnasium.
In 1995, no one stepped forward to be the Chairperson of the Bounty Dinner, so it was cancelled. In October of that year, an article ran in the Times News saying there would not be a Bounty Of Bethlehem Christmas Dinner that year. Many people called the Church to volunteer their help to organize the event and keep it going. Richard Prince volunteered to Chair the event, and Harry Henderson agreed to be co-chairman.
Richard grew up in a family that ran Hotels and restaurants. At an early age, he was being trained to run the Banquet facilities at the Prince George Hotel in NYC. Even though Richard chose another career path in life, he figured that his early training could be used to guide him with this undertaking. Boy, was he ever wrong!!! The Bounty cannot be run like an efficient, professional kitchen. There were just too many volunteers! Richard's first decision as chairman was to eliminate the word "NO" from the Bounty. That meant anyone who wanted to volunteer, would have a job. It is the sense of Community that makes The Bounty Of Bethlehem. Things needed to change, and change fast.
Richard also decided that the meal should be cooked from scratch. Since there was a lot of apprehension about this change, he decided to start with just the turkeys and mashed potatoes. Jimmy Freeman, the man who owns Freeman’s BBQ, donated his smokers to cook the turkeys. 400 pounds of potatoes were ordered, and volunteers were put to work. The only problem was that there were so many volunteers! Within 1 hour, all the potatoes were peeled and cubed! The next year, green beans were added. Each year after that, another another part of the menu was added to “made from scratch,” until the entire meal is now made "in house." The only time Bounty now seems to have too many volunteers is on Christmas day, but somehow, something is usually found for every person to do. Each year, Bounty typically draws around 600 smiling volunteers, working over the course of the 5 days it takes to make this Christmas Blessing happen. In addition, several others contribute MONTHS of their time working behind the scenes writing letters to raise money, aquiring toys, and coordinating the delivery of between 1100 and 1200 meals and toys to the homebound who cannot come to the Christmas Day feast.
In 2000, Richard stepped aside as Chairman, and Jim Bruckner and Alan Dillman stepped up. The event runs like clockwork. It is a blessing for all, whether they help in the preparation, or just come to enjoy the meal.
Several years ago, a volunteer and his wife delivered meals and toys to a local family on Christmas day. Here is their accounting of the experience.
A testimony of Bounty Of Bethlehem from "Greg"
Bounty Of Bethlehem provides a variety of rewards for all involved on Christmas day. I’d like to share Glenda’s and my little blessing with you.
We first brought in all the turkey dinners at the "H’s" mobile home, followed by boxes of toys, to the delight of excited children. There were no presents under their tree (which was a gift from Buddy Mullins, the Christmas tree man).
One boy found a big box labeled, "Boy - 9" and shouted, "Boy - 9 - I’m a boy - 9!" The other children excitedly went through the boxes in search of their presents, when scampering down the hall from her aborted bath, came the most adorable 3 year old, Michelle, her brown curls bouncing. She paused, twirling her finger through her locks with the most delightful, quizzical smile on her face, "Presents?!?"
Another child chimed in, "But it isn’t anybody’s birthday today. How come we’re getting presents?"
"Oh, but it is," I corrected him, "We’re celebrating a very special birthday. A little boy was born on this day in Bethlehem..." I couldn’t hold back the tears so I stepped outside and let someone else continue the story.
From Myrna and all the people who wrapped so many gifts for little ones they’d never see, to those who peeled and mashed potatoes, served meals, provided turkeys, or made the tasty cranberry sauce, it was a wonderful effort from a most caring community.
For those whose stomachs would otherwise have been empty or inadequately filled and for the little ones, for whom toys were provided, filling otherwise empty hearts with joy, Thank you!
December 27, 2001
While visiting with the manager of a local apartment complex where Bounty delivers meals on Christmas day, the manager shared two stories about Bounty Of Bethlehem with us. Some of the folks in the complex she manages, don’t have a lot of “resources,” so Bounty provides a really welcomed meal on Christmas Day.
The first story is about a young boy who was in that situation. He occasionally played with the manager’s son, and would sometimes have dinner with them. On this particular Christmas, money was especially tight, so the meal from Bounty Of Bethlehem was very welcome. The “toy” from Bounty turned out to be the only present he received for Christmas, and when he opened it, he couldn't believe what it was- a brand new basketball, EXACTLY what he had been wanting for Christmas!!! (What are the odds?) In spite of all that was not so great at the time, it turned out to be a GREAT Christmas for He and his Mom because of Bounty Of Bethlehem!
The other story is about a 15 year old girl who also lives in the apartment complex. She and her family decided to start a “new” Christmas Tradition by attending the Bounty Of Bethlehem Christmas Dinner at the gymnasium. The entire family enjoyed the dinner, the atmosphere, the entertainment, and the fellowship. The 15 year old girl went up to see Santa, and received a gift. She decided not to open it until she got back into the family car to go home. This young lady loves penguins. Guess what she received form Santa? A stuffed penguin!!! She said it was the icing on the cake and made the day perfect! She still cherishes that penguin, and cannot wait to return to the Bounty Of Bethlehem Christmas Dinner each year! What a great tradition!
If anyone has more history of The Bounty Of Bethlehem, please send it to me at the email address at the bottom of any page of this website, and I will consider adding it here for all to enjoy.