Traditions: Christmas Eve means something different for everyone, but for Joan Komorowski, it means having a party! Most especially — having a party to benefit someone in need.
“I have been giving Christmas Eve parties for 20-25 years,” Joan says. “So, when I moved from New York to Valencia Lakes late in 2013, I decided to continue my tradition here as well.
“I didn't know many neighbors that first December, so I would be stopping people on the street and introducing myself. ‘I'm having party Christmas Eve,' I would tell them. ‘Please come.' There were only 22 people that first year, but we had a great time.”
Joan knows from experience that guests want to bring things to a party, so she suggests that if they must bring something, please bring some non-perishables for the food pantry. In this case — for Our Lady of Guadalupe Food Pantry.
And so it began.
Joan is amazed at the generosity of her neighbors, considering how the donations for the Pantry have multiplied over the years, now filling the entire back hall of her home.
And one of Joan's friends and neighbors is Dan Somma, who works at the Pantry a couple of days a week.
“Dan is like a hero to me,” she says. “I coordinate with him in getting our food to the Pantry after the party.”
Dan is impressed with his friend's Christmas Eve party, which has now grown to 60 or more guests.
“My wife Nancy and I go to Joan's party every year,” he says. “Joan cooks most of the food and supplies all the drinks — which includes her incredible homemade egg nog that everyone loves.”
In fact, planning a feast for 60 or more guests is not in the least overwhelming to Joan, who simply plans ahead, making several big pans of lasagna that she freezes until the day of the party. “People love lasagna!” she says.
She also serves a big spiral ham, a couple big turkey breasts, a few sides, appetizers — and always her famous 8-pound apple pie.
“I just love Christmas,” Joan says. “And I love parties. It's my tradition. Parties help to bring people together. And they are even more meaningful when my guests and I can help put a meal on the table of someone, who has less than we do.”