A December tradition of giving continues

Kelly Rospond and Woody Thompson hosted the annual party.

Patty Elliott

Cheer, cheese and chatter has been a SaddleBrooke tradition for more than 17 years. Each December, holiday decorations abound and lots of ladies gather to enjoy appetizers and sparkling punch while sharing gifts of money, baby food and items for children.

What began as a ladies’ party with fruitcake and sherry wine almost 20 years ago in Ohio soon changed to a wine, cheese and chatter party with John and Sue Birky and Joe and Lauchette Low hosting the event. Out went the fruitcake and sherry wine. In came lots of hors d’oeurves and John and Joe’s secret recipe for a sparkling punch with a kick.

The December party is now a SaddleBrooke 16-year old tradition where the guests bring food, diapers and other items needed by babies and young children. This year the venue changed from the Birky’s home on Emerald Ridge to the home of Kelly Rospond and Woody Thompson in SaddleBrooke’s Unit 8A. Extra thanks go to Kelly and Woody for opening their home for this event.

December 3 brought cool, sunny weather which was perfect for the 200 ladies who enjoyed this year’s Cheer, Cheese and Chatter open house. More than 20 Soul Sisters from Resurrection Church at SaddleBrooke filled the tables with fruit, cheese, shrimp, stuffed mushrooms, holiday bread, mac and cheese bites, crab and cheese triangles, cranberry roll ups and much more for the guests to enjoy. Of course, Sue Birky’s variety of decorated Christmas cookies were there to be enjoyed by all.

John Birky and Woody Thompson made sure the “secret recipe” punch bowls remained filled. Fifteen great men from Resurrection helped serve the punch and escort the guests to and from their cars with golf cart rides.

Special thanks go to Trudy Rossi, Laurie Page, Carolyn Kelsey and Ann Paterson Barton who volunteered their afternoon for kitchen duty ensuring that the hot dishes were baked at the appropriate times, the serving platters were kept filled and the dishes were washed! The remainder of the Soul Sisters served as hostesses greeting guests and helping strangers make new friends.

At the end of the afternoon, $4,800 in checks and cash plus about 600 pounds of food, diapers and clothing for the babies and young children were collected. Surprisingly, the local food banks who receive donations from various area churches and individuals often receive little in the way of baby food or items young children need to grow up healthy. That’s why events like Cheer, Cheese and Chatter are so important.

According to Michelle Santorelli, Program Director for IMPACT of Southern Arizona, and Diane Poskus, Food Bank Coordinator at IMPACT, the monies, food and baby items will stock the shelves at IMPACT for several months. They will also be included in layettes prepared for soon-to-be new mothers.

It does take a village to raise a child. Thanks to Cheer, Cheese and Chatter many youngsters will enjoy healthy meals and the things little ones need.