OCEANSIDE — Brother Benno’s served 384 clients at its Thanksgiving Day meal and is prepping to serve hundreds more throughout the holiday season.
Now in its 40th year of servicing the homeless and low-income communities of Oceanside, Brother Benno’s has traditionally served Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday meals since its inception.
“It was a really wonderful day,” said Kathleen Diehlmann, manager of volunteer programs at Brother Benno’s.
Following the late morning meal, the soup kitchen closed its doors for the rest of the holiday, promptly reopening during normal operating hours the following day.
The Thanksgiving and Christmas Day meals usually bring in more people than an average day at Brother Benno’s, which serves about 212 people on the weekdays and 280 people on Saturdays. The soup kitchen is closed on Sundays.
Diehlmann praised the efforts of Brother Benno’s volunteer Marie Jones-Kirk, who is responsible for coordinating both the Thanksgiving and Christmas Day meals.
“She is one really special volunteer who does an amazing job,” Diehlmann said.
Jones-Kirk has been involved in the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals as a volunteer for over a decade. Three years ago she was appointed as the meals’ lead volunteer coordinator.
“What drives us to come back year after year is knowing how the meals are an amazing way to be able to serve those in need and see people from different backgrounds and walks of life come together,” she said. “In that hour and a half timeframe, we’re all just human beings who come together as a family in love and care.”
Though the Thanksgiving turnout was successful and there was enough food to go around for everyone, Diehlmann acknowledged it is tricky to celebrate the number of people who need help during the holidays and beyond.
“We wish no one needed to come in for a meal and that they could be at home eating with their loved ones,” she said.
With Thanksgiving wrapped up, Brother Benno’s is now looking forward to its December gift-giving and meal plans.
Dozens of volunteers have already filled the Christmas holiday meal roster.
“We are blessed to have many volunteers who already signed up and will be helping on Christmas Day,” Diehlmann said, noting the soup kitchen no longer has room for more Christmas meal volunteers.
Santa Claus is expected to make a guest appearance at the Christmas meal as well.
Brother Benno’s is currently in the middle of fundraising for gift cards and other items through Dec. 8 to hand out during its annual Children’s Christmas Party coming up. The organization expects to serve around 450 children that day, having already signed up more than 100 children between the ages of 0 to 15.
“We’ll have stockings, pajamas, handmade wooden toys, books and gift cards to hand out to families for their children,” Diehlmann said.
Brother Benno’s is also running its $40 for $40 fundraising campaign in honor of its 40th anniversary. Donated funds will be used to support the organization’s services, which include meals, hygiene kits, showers, clothing, mail service, housing assistance, recovery support, case management and more.
Brother Benno’s Executive Director Paul “Mac” McNamara praised the efforts of volunteers, staff and donors alike in a recent newsletter.
“Your contributions continue to help this organization save and change lives and restore dignity to our brothers and sisters,” McNamara wrote. “I wish we could report that the needs of our guests have lessened over the years, but sadly, it has not, and so the need grows – and with that growth, so grows our need for your support.”
To learn more about or donate to Brother Benno’s, visit www.brotherbenno.org. Checks can also be sent to The Brother Benno Foundation, P.O. Box 308, Oceanside, CA 92049.