More than a decade after his passing, Sundar Shadi continues to bring the community in El Cerrito and the East Bay together during the Christmas season.
The handmade figures of the annual Sundar Shadi Holiday Display will officially be set up Dec. 14 on Moeser Lane, continuing the tradition started more than 60 years ago by one man who simply wanted to give back to his community.
The opening night of the display will feature holiday music by award-winning bell ringers Larry and Carla Sue (www.facebook.com/LarryandCarla), who have created their own collection of eight-bell music.
The display will be open for viewing from 5 to 10 p.m. daily from Dec. 14 to Dec. 26.
Copies of the documentary "Sundar Shadi's Gifts," an affectionate look at the man who started the tradition that premiered in October, will be available for sale.
It takes a lot of people to carry on the work once done by a single person. The folk art figures created by Mr. Shadi are now under the care of the El Cerrito Community Foundation and the local chapter of Soroptimist International, and they annually ask the public to be part of the tradition.
The first chance to help is a work party that will prepare the site at Moeser Lane at Sea View Drive from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 8. "Please bring your gas-operated weed trimmers and gardening tools such as hoes, etc.," say organizers.
Volunteers are also needed to put the elaborate scene in place on Dec. 14 and take them down on Dec. 27, as well as welcoming visitors and directing traffic on the nights the display is open. There are opportunities throughout the year, in fact, doing restoration and repair of the fragile pieces.
FEED THE HUNGRY DINNER: Another holiday tradition that is continuing despite the death of its founder is the Feed the Hungry Holiday Dinner, from noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Eagles Hall at 2100 Rivers St. in San Pablo.
The event, timed to fill the gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas by providing a hot meal of turkey and ham with all the trimmings to any and all, was started 21 years ago by Annette Wills, a member of the Eagles Auxiliary from Montalvin Manor who died in March. The commitment Wills showed in staging and rounding up donations for the event despite declining health in recent years is being carried on by her daughter, Melissa Biggs.
"It's time to remind everyone of just how special this project has become and of all the donations, and gifts of time it takes to make it happen," Biggs writes. "Feeding close to 300 people takes a small army!"
Along with a hearty meal, the event provides comfort items such as towels, wash cloth, soap, razor, shampoo, conditioner, comb, toothbrush and toothpaste, rain ponchos, a pair of socks, warm gloves, stocking caps, as funds are available.
Everything relies on donations and volunteers.
"We will be needing turkeys and turkey cooks, help on the day of the dinner setting up everything, manning the tables, help serving on the food line and in the kitchen," Biggs says.
"We ask that you save your gently used coats and warm outer wear as we make these available on a first-come, first-serve basis."
Coat donations and monetary contributions, made payable to San Pablo Eagles Auxiliary 3028, can be sent to the lodge.
To volunteer or get more details call Biggs at 510-223-0689.
"With your help, donations, hard work and holiday spirit, for one day we will have done our best to win the war on hunger and loneliness," she says.
health care workshops: "Get Enrolled and Get Covered" is a series of free workshops explaining health care options through Covered California that will be held this month at library branches in West Contra Costa. Certified enrollment counselors will be available to talk with residents face-to-face at the sessions and help them select the best match for medical needs and budget.
Residents can also find out if they qualify for low cost or no cost coverage through Medi-Cal.
The workshops are held on a first-come, first-serve, drop-in basis.
west county notes: San Pablo welcomes the holidays with a tree-lighting and celebration from 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 6 at City Hall, 13831 San Pablo Ave.
The celebration and open house will include arts and crafts, the chance to bring your camera and take a picture with Santa, caroling and more. Details: 510- 215-3080