Meet the Christmas Cheer Team

Lucille Dalbis – President

Lucy was just a volunteer that came on Christmas morning to help with the meals. She asked if she could attend a meeting of the small core group and realized that if it was going to grow, it needed her organizational skills...and so it began.

She knew her work was cut out for her since Phil Calabrese refuses no one a meal, "If someone calls the day before Christmas and needs food, he gets it to them."

From delivering meals on small pieces of paper with the recipients address on it, Lucy developed their first routing system using Access (a Microsoft program). That was at the beginning when under 1,000 meals were going out. As it grew, volunteers with routing experience developed routing systems to handle the deliveries that are by town, by street and by number to make it manageable for volunteer drivers to do this wonderful endeavor on Christmas morning. Now that she is retired from full time work, she has developed many databases to monitor all of the volunteers, donators and social workers.

Lucy also developed power point presentations to be given to companies and groups interested in sponsoring Christmas Cheer

The "angels", as Lucy calls them, are the social workers in the schools that make Christmas Cheer work. They distribute the food forms to students to take home to their families to fill out. The privacy act prohibits us from soliciting information from agencies so the social workers send the forms to us.

Lucy says Phil is the outside guy and she is the inside gal. He feeds people and she works to make the volunteer experience one that families will savor and want to come back each year and help once again.

All of their families are involved as well as their grandchildren and that's the legacy they both of them have given to their family....the love for helping others.

"It never fails to work out," I used to wonder how it did work out, but since the CEO upstairs attends all of our meetings, it ALWAYS works.

Diane Goubeaux – Vice President

I was a Chicago Board of Education, Special Education teacher, for 34 years on the west side of the city. After I retired I needed something to do, especially during the holiday season.

Several years earlier, a friend of mine started to volunteer with CCF, so I decided to help that Christmas. I opened cans of mixed vegetables with a small 2 inch hand turned can opener. Needless to say, the following year, I returned to help, but I brought my own large can opener that worked much better.

My friend and I continued to work for CCF and as our relationship developed so did our relationship with CCF mushroom into greater and greater involvement. We got married and got more and more involved in Christmas Cheer. The Christmas Cheer Foundation is a large part of our lives and it will continue to be an even greater part in years to come with good healthy and God’s blessings.

Philip Calabrese – Secretary & Treasurer

Christmas Cheer didn’t start out as a foundation. Over two decades ago, it began in a basement of a Lutheran church in Oak Park serving a small community of “Meals on Wheels” recipients who do not receive meals on Christmas.

The charity began in Oak Park, the idea of a doctor who wanted to provide food for homebound elderly folks who couldn't get Meals on Wheels service on Christmas Day. When Phil Calabrese took the program over in the early 1980s, it was helping about 125 people.

Through Phil's encouragement, it has grown to serve thousands. He came to believe that there were many people in the Chicagoland area that needed to be fed. Because of Phi’s “heart of mercy”, no one is refused. If he receives a note or phone call for 1 meal or 800 meals, he (omit has) never says “NO”.

And grow it he did — quickly. The foundation enlisted social workers to refer people in need, and the list of Christmas Cheer recipients swiftly grew to 2,000. Then a few years later to 5,000. Then 10,000. And now 20,000, and still growing

We are the only charity in the Chicagoland area to deliver meals along with new childrens books and beanie books directly to the home on Christmas Day.

Phil raises most of the financial assistance. He virtually goes out to beg for the donations to fund this endeavor each year. When there is an abundance of donations of food or gifts, Phil will deliver to food pantries, food shelters, and other charitable organizations that help the needy.

Phil always says, "We're trying to do a really simple thing, feed someone"

You don't have to be around Phil Calabrese long to tell he has become addicted to his work, hooked on the very idea of finding ways to route more food to more people in need. It's as if something clicked back in the '80s, and the son of Italian immigrants saw that he could be a conduit for others' generosity.

"You're not just feeding the poor," said Calabrese, now retired . "You can see it in the volunteers; they just light up. We're serving the people who need food, and serving the people who need to help other people. People want to give back."

Christmas Cheer Committee

  • Rita Behrendt
  • Candy Butera
  • Ron Czelalski
  • Brian Denaro
  • Cecil Goubeaux
  • Karla Gommel
  • Thomas Davy
  • Mary Kay Davy
  • Dennis Delaney
  • Kate Delaney
  • Sheila Hardin
  • Lucy Raimonde
  • Ken Soreng
  • Clarinda Valentine
  • Mike Vallone
  • Ralph Zahara