Even in the midst of her seasonal flurry of activity and witnessing a dwindling of donations of toys and household wares for the Christmas Day production, Mary Perez appears unflappable.
There's a calm assuredness that donors and volunteers will once again come through -- and the annual Christmas for Everyone event she started nearly three decades ago will keep intact its long-standing reputation of not turning anyone away.
The Martinez resident has maintained her faith that all that's needed is a memory-jogger, and kindhearted souls will contribute -- be it monetary, offering a gift for a teen, or donating a queen-sized blanket, she says, noting this year's needs.
"If you're not the Salvation Army or the Red Cross, people can forget and you can slip through the cracks," she says. "It's great to remind them that 27 years later, we're still here."
Key to Perez's peace of mind, she says, is attributable to the some 50 tireless volunteers, both in the corporate and individual realm, she counts on each year to help out.
"Without these people we'd have to fold up and go home," she says of those who, regardless of the ebb and flow of the economy, still bring toys or give money for buying the 850 pounds of ham, the 100 turkeys, or the estimated 500 pies and cakes they will serve.
The food is always aplenty, but the diminishing inventory of toys can be "scraping the barrel," by day's end.
"We've always made it work," says
She estimates that they served a holiday meal with all the trimmings and gave their guests bags of gently used clothing and a gift to 2,700 people last year.
Martinez resident Nancy Hobert has been a contributor for years, supporting Christmas for Everyone financially, and dishing up butter and rolls one year.
"Mary makes use of every dollar you give her. There are no administrative costs. It goes directly to those who need it," she says.
And this year, a core group of Seventh-day Adventists in Pleasant Hill will once again purchased the ingredients for the homemade stuffing and will commence slicing and dicing vegetables at an off-site location prior to the Dec. 25 event.
Meanwhile, longtime contributor Batha Karr will once again send funds from her Scottsdale, Ariz., address to buy the ham, inspired by how Perez has long proven that "one person counts."
It is a creed they have both taken to heart.
"You volunteer for life. That's how you should go into everything," says Karr.
The fact that Perez has long exemplified what it means to be selfless is what motivates Susan Hurl to always contribute to the cause, each year anticipating getting a last-minute call for help from Perez.
The director of community affairs at Allied Waste procures toys when hearing of a shortage for a particular age group. Hurl and her employer give money and she and a group of a half-dozen co-workers give of their time.
Last year, it was a Christmas morning plea for extra extension cords.
"Mary embodies that whole spirit of volunteerism and caring for others ... It's hard to say 'no' to Mary," Hurl says. "The number one reason people don't give is they're not being asked."
Christmas for Everyone is still in need of donations, especially for teens and adults, which can be dropped off at the New Hope International Church, at 2120 Olivera Road in Concord, up through Christmas Day.
What: Christmas for Everyone holiday meal, gifts, clothing, activities, entertainment for needy individuals, families
When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Christmas Day, Dec. 25
Where: New Hope International Church, 2120 Olivera Court, Concord
Donations: ww.christmasforeveryone.com (especially needed are items for teens, adults)