3,000 needy get gifts, dinner at Father Woody Christmas Party
By Nissa LaPoint
Photo by James Baca/DCR
Christmas cheer and a true spirit of giving spread from person to person, young and old alike at the annual Father Woody Christmas Party for the poor Dec. 18 at the Sheraton Hotel downtown.
Children bounced in their chairs and clutched wrapped presents given by volunteers inside the hotel’s grand ballroom. Families and guests were served with a hot meal of turkey and mashed potatoes while a women’s choir sang Christmas carols.
“It’s fun because you can eat, meet Santa and get presents,” said 7-year-old Melissa Lopez, who came to the party with her father and siblings.
Sitting across the room with her three children and family was Aida Coronado, 27, of Denver.
“It’s nice and they treat you good,” said Coronado, who added that she came for the benefit of her children who will wait to open their presents on Christmas.
The hotel welcomed some 3,000 guests like Coronado and Lopez for the 30th annual party sponsored by the Daniels Fund, Regis University, Holy Ghost Parish in Denver and the Archdiocese of Denver.
The celebration, named after the late Msgr. C.B. Woodrich, known as Father Woody, is based on his years ministering to the hungry and homeless of Denver.
The party is about being a gift to others, said Father John Lager, O.F.M. Cap., who handed $5 Arc Thrift Store vouchers to guests leaving the party.
“The Father Woody party is Christmas,” he said. “Why? Because Christmas is all about giving.”
A banner hanging behind a Nativity scene at the party quoted the well-known Father Woody: “My dear people: We cannot pray to the Lord and reject the ones he loves the most.”
After welcoming the guests at her assigned table, 29-year-old Lucy Jones of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Denver said it’s easy to think they’re doing a favor for the disadvantaged, but in actuality it’s the volunteers who are blessed.
“I feel honored to be here and serve my Lord in a concrete way,” Jones said.
About 900 volunteers came to the party Sunday and worked on one of a variety of tasks: assemble meals, serve the meals, write the names, ages and sizes of guests at the tables, or collect age-appropriate Christmas gifts for children and adults.
“When you give the kids these gifts and see their faces light up, it just ... gets me teary,” said Carole Hruskocy, who has volunteered for years through Regis University where she is an associate professor.
At another table, Ann Ball and her daughter, Monica, of Estes Park made a team and served meals to guests. Ball wanted her daughter to have the experience of serving the poor.
“I think that’s the great joy of Christmas—serving others,” Ball said.
It was the first time Father James Thermos of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary was able to attend the party.
He gave Sacred Heart of Jesus prayer cards to guests and said he thought it was beautiful to see the families and witness their gratitude.
Thankfulness was all that Nia Mafi of Denver could say about her experience of the party with her friends and four children.
“It’s amazing,” Mafi said. “It’s probably my first and last time in a ballroom.”