For the past 50 years, Brooklyn Heights resident and journalist Sondra Fagan, 71, has been hosting free Christmas dinners for community members who have no family or no place else to go.
“Most people take for granted that they have family and friends to go home to during the holidays,” said Fagan. “But there is a segment of the population does that does not have that, particularly people who are from out of town or come from foreign lands and can’t get home to their families.
“Other times, it’s just loneliness, abuse in the home or tragedy. One man came one year from Staten Island. He had lost his entire family through a tragedy and had no where to go.”
Fagan said she started the dinners because of her bought with loneliness in her early twenties. She was estranged from her family and was looking for a meaning, a purpose.
“I thought I had no talent,” she said. “But I promised God that if he’d make me a journalist, I would use it to help connect others.”
Fagan landed a job working for Brooklyn Heights Press in the 60s. She started an advice column called, “Set Ups for Singles,” which was an instant hit. One day, said Fagan, an elderly man wrote me and said he had no one to be with on Christmas Eve, “And the idea occurred to me that I didn’t either. So I could meet with him and invite others who had no place to go.
She started hosting potluck dinners on Christmas Eve, and the group kept meeting and growing and growing. This continued four decades, with different groups of people filtering in and out.
“People met and married, made connections, found jobs, apartments, divorced, you know the usual things in life,” she said.
Her meet ups continued until three years ago, when she was brutally assaulted on the subway, an encounter that left her with internal injuries in a wheelchair. She had to take a break from the dinners to nurse back her physical and mental health, she said. Then, last year, another bad fortune: She was diagnosed with cancer.
Fagan said, despite her declining health, she decided to bring the Christmas Eve dinners back one more time, “Because I may not be here next year.”
She reached out to the Brooklyn Reader because she said she’s had some challenges getting the word out that the dinners are back on again. The dinner venue can accommodate up to 35 people, and so far, she only has five RSVPs. But she wants to welcome any and everybody looking for companionship and a good meal on Christmas.
“The holidays are for sharing, and there should be no one facing a dismal prospect of spending time by themselves this Christmas,” said Fagan.
Despite all of her recent challenges, Fagan manages to smile, grateful for leading a life and career she has love dearly. “ James Berry (the poet) once said those who receive sunshine must give to others; they cannot keep it for themselves.”
“Hopefully, this year we can insure a bright and wonderful Christmas Eve.”
WHAT: Christmas Eve (Potluck) Dinner, Hosted by Sondra Fagan
WHEN: December 24, 2015, 8:00pm – 10:30pm
WHERE: Lisa Berger’s home, 47 Prospect Park Southwest. Please call to RSVP: 347-463-3964