Hundreds of low-income seniors, families in need and the homeless gathered at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad Wednesday for a holiday feast organized by Bethesda business and community leaders. Volunteers served up heaping piles of roasted turkey, honey baked ham, green beans, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce; Santa stopped by for a photo shoot, and children picked out Christmas toys and decorated gingerbread men specially baked for the occasion.
With food provided by chefs from the Hyatt Regency Bethesda and Classic Residence, along with sponsorship and volunteers from a variety of partners in the Bethesda community, the Goodwill Dinner has been going strong for 22 years. It began as the vision of the former Bethesda Hyatt manager Rick Masucci, according to current Hyatt manager Tom Wolf, after a homeless person was found frozen to death one winter in the stairway of the hotel.
Though Masucci passed away about ten years ago, the tradition has carried on, Wolfe said. "That sort of hit Rick," Wolf said. "He said, 'We should do something.' This was his contribution, and we do this in his honor."
About 425 attended the event, both those without homes and residents of low-income or transitional housing like Bethesda's Waverly House and the National Center for Children and Families. To feed the crowd, chefs from the Hyatt and Classic Residence baked nearly 50 pies and 400 gingerbread men, and cooked about a dozen turkeys and hams, not to mention the side dishes.
No one left the dinner empty-handed. Those who are homeless were equipped with "street survival kits" with provisions like socks, long-johns and hand warmers.
Children received toys, mothers received gift cards, and pounds of fresh fruit and tins of cookies are offered for diners to take home. "The kids just love it," said Gloria Arnold of the Bethesda Chevy-Chase Chamber of Commerce, who also participated in the event. "They get nice presents, and it's just amazing to see these kids fill their pockets with fresh fruit."
Community partners for the Goodwill Dinner included:
- Awards Limousine
- Bethesda Cares
- Bethesda Chevy-Chase Regional Services Center
- Bethesda Urban Partnership
- Bethesda Rotary Foundation
- Bethesda Woman's Club
- Classic Residence
- Dickstein Shapiro LLP
- The Fairweather Team
- The Greater Bethesda Chevy-Chase Chamber of Commerce
- Hyatt Regency Bethesda
- Montgomery County Second District Police
- NIH-NOAA Recreation and Welfare Association
- Washington Talent