Warming hearts, stomachs and feet
Post Independent Correspondent
Nancy Turner has discovered more than one way to warm the hearts, stomachs and feet of some of her fellow residents.
“I like to keep heavy socks in my car, so when I see homeless people on the street, I can give them socks,” Turner said. “Now I’ve got people doing it in San Francisco and friends in Chicago doing it, too.”
Aside from her sock donations, Turner, who has lived in the valley for 21 years, donates her time organizing the annual Christmas Eve Angel Dinner and clothing drive. This year marks Turner’s 10th year of being in charge of the event.
In recent years, the dinner was moved to Christmas Eve, but it started as a Christmas Day tradition.
“It’s called the Angel Dinner because my friend Angel had started it before me,” Turner said. “She realized that there was nothing for the homeless and needy of the valley for Christmas. She did it for one or two years and then I took it over.”
About 180 people in need of a Christmas Eve dinner attend the event annually. It’s put on by Turner’s coworkers at Sotheby’s Realty and her family members.
“Every year, the number of people that we’re able to serve increases,” Jennifer Kasprzak said. “People remember. They know that we’re here and they know that they aren’t alone.”
Kasprzak is one of the many employees of Sotheby’s Realty who assist Turner in getting the word out, organizing and working the annual dinner.
“We love to support Nancy because we love to support our brokers,” Kasprzak said. “We start promoting and gathering food donations two to three months out.”
Almost all of the food for the dinner is donated by people from all over the Roaring Fork Valley.
“I’ve got ranchers that help out,” Turner said. “I’ve got a friend in Basalt who makes all the sweet potatoes. I’m talking more sweet potato casseroles than you could ever imagine.”
Along with the Angel Dinner, Turner also works to collect winter clothing including snow clothes, coats, socks, boots and jackets to bring to the dinner on Christmas Eve. Throughout the year, she collects on average 10 full bins of warm clothes to hand out on Christmas Eve.
“I have a friend from Thailand who sent me 200 pairs of socks,” Turner said. “I have another friend from the San Francisco Bay area who sent me another 150 pairs. Friends from all over the world have really come to help us.”
Turner understands the financial struggles of Christmas on a personal level as a single mother.
“I knew how difficult it was to raise children and give them what they need for skiing and sports and school activities,” Turner said. “So, when Christmas comes along, you throw on top of that the need for presents and it just seems like there are a lot of people in the valley that struggle.”
The event continues to touch those who are giving, and those receiving.
“It helps to remind me that there are people who aren’t as fortunate for one reason or another,” Kasprzak said. “It’s something that I take my children to, so that they see that we need to be grateful for what we have and the beautiful community that we are able to live in.”
People from all different backgrounds and circumstances are invited to attend and enjoy a warm dinner, live piano music and community on Christmas Eve. The dinner takes place from 4:30-6 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Glenwood Springs.
“The guests are excited to be there,” Turner said. “We have the music, and we put the clothes out on the table and no one ever takes more than they need. There are veterans and families who come with kids who just need a meal for Christmas.
“When you experience that sharing and that giving and the good, respectful, loving people who are just down on their luck, it stops you in your tracks,” she said. “It’s hard to do, but it’s also the most rewarding ever.”