Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat

Christmas arrives next week, and several free dinners inTuolumne and Calaveras counties will ensure that no one goes hungry or lacks companionship.Santa Claus will also be present.

Tuolumne County's annual free Community Christmas Eve Day Dinner will be served from noon to 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 24, at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora.

All are welcome, whether they need a warm meal, companionship, Christmas spirit, or all three.

The full turkey dinner is supported by citizens, businesses, civic groups and organizations, including Interfaith Community Social Services and the Kiwanis Club of Sonora.

Volunteer shifts are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday to help with all aspects of setting up, including decorating, table setting, cooking, tree trimming, setting up Santa's Workshop and general last-minute details.

On the Monday, shifts are from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m., 1:45 to 4:45 p.m. and 3:45 to 6 p.m. Only scheduled volunteers will be able to help that day.

Rides to and from the fairgrounds are available for diners. Upon prior arrangement, meals can be delivered to those unable to get to the fairgrounds.

Meals to go must be pre-ordered by today and picked up by 11 a.m. on Christmas Eve. Home-delivered meals must also be pre-ordered by today. There are no other take-out meals except for the diners' own plates of leftovers.

To make a donation, volunteer, ask for a ride to the dinner or request takeout or delivered meals, call Cathie Peacock at 586-4802.

To make a monetary donation, mail a check payable to Community Christmas Eve Day Dinner to P.O. Box 594, Mi-Wuk Village, CA 95346.

The Sonora Alano Club will hold a Christmas potluck dinner from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 25, at 19421 Village Drive in East Sonora. Admission is free and everyone is welcome. Ham and turkey will be provided. Guests are welcome to bring a side dish or dessert. For more information, call 532-1928.

Christmas With Friends, a free holiday dinner, will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 25, at the both the Sonora Opera Hall and Tuolumne Veterans Memorial Hall. Rides and home delivery are available.

"It is our deepest wish that you and yours will join us this Christmas Day for an unforgettable dinner and celebration," said organizer James Winter. "Join us for a full turkey dinner, gifts for the kids, free blankets, music, singing, fellowship and so much more.This is a free event for anyone who wishes to come and we expect nothing in return."

For more information, to make donations or volunteer, call 770-0536 or visit

In Calaveras County, Murphys Friends will host a free Christmas community dinner from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 25, at the Native Sons Hall on Main Street in Murphys. Dinner will feature turkey with all the trimmings, along with music, photos with Santa Claus and gifts for young people.

For meals delivered in Calaveras County, call 728-2633. For other information, call 736-6177.

Visits with Santa Claus and other holiday activities also are taking place at various locations.

• Santa Claus will visit with children at Courthouse Square in downtown Sonora from 3 to 5:30 p.m. today through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday and 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday.

• The Horsearound Ranch in Soulsbyville will host its second annual Christmas Light Show from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is free, with donations accepted to benefit the Summerville High School Agriculture Program. Santa Claus will be present to visit with children. Hot beverages, light snacks and prize drawings also will be featured. For more information, call 928-3249.

• Santa Claus will be at The Junction shopping center in his house under the clock from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday. For more information, call 533-3548.

• Santa Claus and Friends will visit Rocca Park in Jamestown from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday. This week Santa will arrive in a fire truck and a Sonora High School group led by Yvonne Denton will play, as well as other performers from the community.

• Milk and Cookies With Santa will take place from 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Heart Rock Cafe at 1 S. Washington St. in downtown Sonora. For more information, call 532-7305.