MODESTO -- A Modesto synagogue prepared meals for first responders and seniors Christmas Day, providing a sense of Christmas spirit to many who had to work on the holiday.
In the hall at Congregation Beth Shalom, where tables were set up for first responders to come through and grab a meal, those volunteering said it was their way of uniting with their Christian brothers and sisters. The Carmichael synagogue has spent the last 10 years making sure those working during Christmas can eat well.
"It means a lot to us as a community, and since we don’t celebrate Christmas, what better way to be united with our Christian friends than having something for our community?" said volunteer Janet Rasmussen.
The synagogue prepared homemade lasagna, biscuits and dessert and delivered around 300 meals to first responders and seniors, while also enabling others working to stop by and eat at their social hall.
"It’s very limited what you can eat and where you can eat. So, by doing this, it’s twofold," Rasmussen said. "There is a place where they can eat, and they have a wonderful meal and great desserts, and... a safe environment. And they can come in here and just relax for a few minutes."
Many of the volunteers, including Rasmussen, previously worked in law enforcement and viewed the day as an opportunity to exhibit values of their faith.
"My heart goes to them and the difficult things they face now, and this is a way to have something positive for them and say thank you and let them know they are appreciated," she said.
For those who couldn’t leave work, volunteers like Gary Kailes packed up their cars and delivered the meals.
"It’s a way to thank all the people who have to work on this day to be able to have a nice hot meal and a little bit of enjoyment while they are working," Kailes said.
Kailes has a knack for stepping up on Christmas. During his time as a probation officer he would take Christmas shifts for others
"That way someone could be home with their family on their important holiday," Kailes said.
The appreciation was shared by those who received the meals.
"They are always very appreciative, but this year there is a very wonderful spirit of gratitude and everyone seemed really happy this year. They all said, 'Gosh, I’ve heard about this meal. I haven’t been able to be here on the day you feed us, and I’m looking forward to this meal I’ve heard about,'" Rasmussen said.
Holiday spirit shared through a good meal, one that brings faiths together.