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From the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, December 25, 2006


Service providers

AT&T staff deliver hot food, warm wishes

by Andrew Dowd, Leader-Telegram Staff 


Photo by Dan Reiland

More than 100 AT&T employees, retirees and their relatives volunteered as drivers and cooks for Meals on Wheels on Sunday. Retiree Larry Bradford of Eau Claire is among those who have volunteered to deliver holiday dinners for almost 30 years.



As Dennis Dokkestul’s pickup pulls up to a home on Eau Claire’s north side, insulated black bags protect his precious holiday cargo from the elements.

Curtains part to reveal a face peeking out of the house, curious about the activity in the driveway.

Dokkestul slides out of the driver’s seat with his three kids, Brady, 12, Bryxen, 11, and Madysen, 6, following him from the back seat.

As the party approaches the front door — bearing one of the 18 hot meals from the truck’s cargo bed — the elderly woman living at the home opens the front door and a smile immediately spreads across her face.

On Christmas Eve, the Dokkestuls and other families of AT&T employees and retirees delivered 287 meals to homebound people in Eau Claire County.

“It’s a very nice thing,” said Herman Genrich after accepting meals from the Dokkestuls. “It’s in the spirit.”

Volunteers have delivered meals to his house on the north side of Eau Claire for several years, Genrich recalled.

“I’m not much of a cook, so it really helps me,” he said.

At Hope Lutheran Church, 2226 Eddy Lane, Judy Schwoch marshals her troops as an assembly line behind her fills the small metal trays with piping hot food and hands them to her for distribution to drivers.

“This is part of Christmas,” she said.

For the past 29 years, Schwoch has coordinated the event for AT&T Telephone Pioneers, a volunteer group of former and current AT&T workers with their families and friends. It’s an around-the-clock effort to make the meals from scratch.

On Saturday, the food was brought to the church, dressing was prepared and a row of electric roasters began cooking the turkeys. Schwoch’s husband, Loren, even went to the church at 2 a.m. Sunday to check on the birds.

Drivers, including Schwoch’s son-in-law, Dennis Dokkestul, began their routes at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

The Dokkestuls got an 18-meal route that criss-crossed Starr Avenue on the city’s north side.

“There are a lot of ‘God bless yous’ around here,” Brady said.

Dennis Dokkestul and his sons wore navy blue volunteer T-shirts, while Madysen donned her baby blue coat in Sunday’s weather hovering around the freezing point.

Brady remembers people who started crying when they saw visitors, especially children, and gave his siblings and him hugs and kisses.

“It’s just amazing how joyful they are when we come,” he said.

Others have invited the family in for cookies and a quick visit before heading to the next house. On Sunday, the Dokkestuls received a grocery bag half full of popcorn at their last stop.

Along with the dinner consisting of turkey, gravy, dressing, mashed potatoes and green beans, people got milk, homemade cookies, bread and a bag of toiletries.

Money for Sunday’s meals came from Thrivent Financial, AT&T and private donations from individual Telephone Pioneers volunteers.

The AT&T volunteers provide relief on Christmas Eve for the many others that deliver year-round for Meals on Wheels.

Dowd can be reached at 833-9204, (800) 236-7077 or andrew.dowd@ecpc.com.


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