Bandera Family And Community Alliance To Serve Christmas Dinner In Chenango County
Published: December 8th, 2023
By: Sarah Genter

Bandera Family and Community Alliance to serve Christmas dinner in Chenango County Volunteers with the Bandera Family and Community Alliance preparing food for free meals in a past year. This year dine-in, take out, and deliveries will be available in Norwich, Oxford, and Sidney from noon to 2 p.m. on Christmas day. (Submitted photo)

CHENANGO COUNTY — The Bandera Family and Community Alliance will be returning to the Norwich area this year to provide free meals on Christmas day.

While they’ve served the meals for the past five years in Norwich, this year the effort has expanded to include locations in Oxford and Sidney.

“We want to reach as many people as we can,” said Bandera Family Representative Bill Bandera. “We supply everything to Oxford from Norwich and then they’re open just on that Christmas day and they get the whole shebang.”

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“We have the ability to do that and expand so that people in the Oxford area that might want to get together – and fellowship, which is really our main reason to do this – have a hot meal. They can join instead of having to drive, if they can’t drive that far. It just makes it available for them instead of having it be delivered. That’s why we do it.”

Meals will be available for dine-in, take out from noon to 2 p.m. at the Norwich American Legion, the Oxford American Legion, and the Sidney American Legion. No pre-ordering is required; individuals can simply show up and enjoy a hot meal.

Deliveries will also be available for all three locations from noon to 2 p.m. To order a delivery, call the United Way Hotline at 211 by 5 p.m. on December 21.

This year’s menu includes turkey, ham, stuffing, yams, mashed potatoes, corn, gravy, cookies and desserts, cranberry sauce, apple sauce, coffee, and tea.

Last year the organization provided around 900 meals in Norwich, and this year they anticipate serving approximately 1,500 meals between the three locations. Any leftovers are given to a food pantry in Oxford and the Norwich, Oxford, and Sidney American Legions.

Bandera said the ability to provide so many free meals is made possible by volunteers that help out each year, as well as individuals, organizations, and businesses who provide in-kind or monetary donations.

In past years, he said donations have been provided by the R.C. Smith Foundation and the Mead Foundation. Walmart, Price Chopper, and Weiss have donated gift cards and food items. They have even helped provide some of the turkeys each year; Bandera said they’ll be roasting 42 to cover all three locations.

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Chobani is donating 1,500 servings of yogurt, Byrne Dairy has donated milk, and Gilligan’s Island of Sherburne has supported the Bandera Family and Community Alliance each year with donations of ice cream.

Additionally, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish Hall, and the Norwich American Legion donate the use of their kitchens each year.

“They’re very helpful and they’ve been with us all six years,” Bandera said. “We have just enough numbers that having an extra kitchen or two is very helpful, especially on Christmas morning.”

The hundreds of free meals could also not be possible without the help of volunteers who donate their time for five days to prep, cook, and serve the food.

Bandera said the efforts in Norwich are coordinated by volunteers Hope Woodcock-Ross and Pam Bandera, formerly Pam Mealey, who have been with the organization since the free meals began in Norwich six years ago.

“The communities are amazing. The people step up every year, and it just can’t be done if the communities don’t help out. We get some really good volunteers,” said Bandera. “Every year it comes together in an amazing way. It’s a great story every year because from the outside it may look like it’s being duplicated every year, which in one form it is; we’re duplicating the meal. But the way in which it comes about and is funded and the positions are filled is always a different story every year.”

Individuals who would like to donate or sign up to volunteer can do so online at Bandera said they will be contacted and given a schedule of available dates and times at each location.

For more information on the Bandera Family and Community Alliance, visit or the Bandera Family and Community Alliance Facebook page.