A Big Bandera Family Christmas

By Erika Mahoney

December 24, 2012 Updated Dec 24, 2012 at 7:55 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) How are you spending your Christmas Eve?

For some, lending a helping hand is the way to go. Volunteers for the 23rd annual Bandera Family Christmas Dinner were in charge of preparing more than 950 pounds of potatoes on Christmas Eve.

"We are not even half way there yet," said volunteer Natalie Poteran. "My hands feel numb, a little raw, but all is good."

The potatoes were the last item on the menu that still needed to be prepared.

Crowded inside a borrowed American Legion kitchen, potatoes were everywhere. But the amount was necessary; the Bandera Family Christmas Dinner gets bigger every year.

"The first year was 60 people, and last year was 4,600," said Bill Bandera, head organizer and son of the creators.

Since 1989, this dinner has served a warm, free meal to Binghamton residents on Christmas Day.

This Christmas, Bandera is expecting the biggest turnout yet.
So big, he had to find an additional kitchen just for the potatoes. But it's a kitchen filled with peeling, chopping, and lots of laughter, fueled by volunteers that make everything possible.

"I came to volunteer because I think it is important to give back to the community you work and play in," said volunteer Lisa Allen. "I knew it would be a great event to meet different people."

"Amidst all of the negativity out there, there are some beautiful people who are willing to help and volunteer their time," said Jim McHugh.

It was ten days of work for a delicious, free Christmas dinner. Anyone and everyone is invited.

"The truth is, the people in this city make this dinner happen," said Bandera. "And they want it. I am a part of it because we started it, but it's not just me. It's hundreds of volunteers, dozens of donors, and just the heart of people who want to reach out and touch somebody in a positive way."

On Christmas, the ballroom at the American Legion Post 80 will be filled with thousands of people.

Back at the "potato kitchen," volunteers will be working through the night, mashing one of the biggest menu hits.

Maybe next year, there will 1,000 pounds of potatoes to prepare.