This article was contributed by Gary Byrne, president of the Community Foundation for San Benito County.
What started as a simple, gracious idea has turned into an annual, local event that has touched so many lives. The Community Foundation for San Benito County is proud to give a grant to Holte Holiday Dinners and to play a part in their amazing work.
Holte Holiday Dinners was started by Marley Holte, who was an educator and principal at Rancho San Justo Middle School. In 1986 he and his wife decided that instead of buying Christmas gifts for one another, they would put on a Christmas dinner for members of their community that were in need. Those invited were seniors, low-income, homeless, migrant workers, and anyone who wanted a hot Christmas meal.
The first year was a success, and the second was even better. Each year more volunteers and donations from community members continued to make an outstanding dinner. Within a few years, Holte Dinners expanded to Thanksgiving and soon outgrew the Senior Center in Hollister, moving to the Sacred Heart Parish School gym. The school allows them to use the kitchen to prepare the meals the day of, and Mansmith’s BBQ is there at 5 a.m. to start smoking the turkeys.
Holte Holiday Dinners serves about 300 residents for Thanksgiving and about 500 for Christmas. They also deliver about 100 dinners to homebound seniors in the area. Christmas dinner includes a visit from Santa for the kids and wrapped presents under the tree for each one.
Ruben Lopez and Eduardo Servin have been involved with Holte Dinners since the mid-90s and love seeing the community come together during the holiday season. Ruben enjoys every volunteer and patron he gets to serve, especially those young people he gets to see every year. Eduardo comes from humble beginnings and believes that giving back to his community is very important, “Do good for others. When good things come to you, you need to share with others.” It is this giving back mentality that guides Holte Holiday Dinners each year and keeps the tradition alive that Marley started so many years ago.
If you are interested in volunteering for Holte Holiday Dinners (the day before or day of the event), or are interested in contributing food or monetary donations, please email Sandra at Yustesandra20@gmail.com.