At Thanksgiving time and at Christmas, no one goes hungry in Utah. There is plenty and enough to share with strangers down on their luck at the homeless shelter. Good will fills the air and food pantry shelves.
After the holidays, the pilgrim centerpiece goes back in the hall closet and the Christmas lights are stored away for another year. But hunger is not seasonal. As food pantries are emptied of the holiday largess, the line of hungry people continues to queue up at St. Vincent de Paul's.There is a Carbon County tradition that answers this ageless problem. Ann Yelanich Bero, resource development director at the St. Vincent de Paul Center, recalled the Slavic dinners in the small mining camp near Helper where she grew up. People would pull together to help each other. Bero's father was Croatian, her mother Slovenian and many of their closest friends were Serbian.
Bero's volunteer work at the center became so vital that when an opening occurred on staff, she was hired. As she thought of ways to raise money to feed the homeless, the traditions of her youth came to mind. "We've tried for years to put together a Slavic dinner," she said. This year it all came together.
"I just yearn to keep some of our heritage alive - I'm anxious to keep the traditions," said Bero. "The last time I was at something like this, I was 6 years old and living in the mining camps."
Bero says that people's ethnic roots can become diluted in the process of growing up, that traditions can go by the wayside. "But later people say, `I'd like to find out what my grandparents were like,' " she said. The Slavic dinner-dance not only raises funds but showcases Slavic ethnic traditions as well. "We will have costumes and the traditional dancing and songs from the country we called Yugoslavia until a year ago," she said.
The traditional dinner-dance is called "Nasa Festa" which means "our celebration." The same clean and spacious dining hall that feeds Utah's hungry will be the scene for the Saturday, March 28, fund-raiser. The dinner will feature roast pork from a spit, "sarma" (cabbage rolls) and, says Bero, "salads like my grandmother used to make." Desserts like strudel and potica will complete the ethnic feast.
But the dinner is just the beginning of the evening. The Zivio Ethnic Arts Ensemble will perform its incredible dance and music. A tamburitza band will provide opportunities to dance the kolo, and Rich Roginski and Mike Milovich will bring their accordions for some polka music.
The cost of the evening is $20 per person. Social hour begins at 6 p.m. with the buffet dinner, entertainment and dancing to follow. Because space is limited, Bero suggests reservations. She said, "Those who are interested in getting together to have a good time and raise money for a good cause should call the center at 534-1500 or 582-0768."