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Charity Begins at Home


Home for the Holidays with Tony and Gretta Bruno

There may be no place like home for the holidays, but for some charity-minded people in Stanislaus County, there is no more perfect holiday activity than opening home sweet home to the community. For these folks, sharing the happiness of home has become their favorite way to give back. This holiday season, Contentment Health Magazine caught up with Tony and Gretta Bruno to find out how this charity-minded family opens their home for the holidays.

CH: You’re both very community oriented, can you tell me about how you open your home to the community during the holidays?
Tony: Gretta and I have hosted the Salvation Army “One Night Out” dinner here for the last two years and we’ll do it again this year. We’ve also auctioned off dinners here as a fundraiser for the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County and for The State Theatre.

Gretta: I’ve also hosted a couple of our Omega Nu Sisterhood dinners here. And when we’re getting ready for our home tours in December, we’ve opened our home and done fruitcake here for the past few years. We’ve also had toffee workshops where a few of the ladies come and we all make toffee.

What about opening your home for the holidays do you particularly enjoy?
G: I love cooking and baking and making chocolates for people to enjoy. We both enjoy entertaining and having people here, making sure they’re enjoying themselves and knowing that we got to facilitate that.

I like cooking by myself, but it’s nice to do it in an environment where everybody is laughing and talking. That’s one of the things I remember from when I was little. When we were cooking, we’d put music on and make it a festive event. It was like a party. I think growing up like that is one of the reasons I still like cooking so much. When all of the Omega Nu girls are together and cooking, it’s the same way. We all have a good time, enjoy each others company and we get to make something good together!

CH: What are the challenges of opening your home for the holidays?
G: When we do the Salvation Army dinner, we usually plan it out well ahead of time.

T: We have to divide up the menu a little bit. Maybe I’ll take one thing and she’ll take the rest. (laughs) But I’ll definitely have my role!

G: We both help figure out the menu, I do the majority of the prep. For the last couple years, I’ve given each couple a box of chocolates that I’ve made. That kind of stuff takes time to do, so I start getting that together a couple weeks ahead of time. He may start his lamb sauce 2 or 3 days in advance and work on that right up until the event. Making it work is just a matter of making sure our schedules are planned out so that we have time to get everything done. We did the dinner on a Saturday last year, which worked out great. The kids went to Grandma’s, and we prepped all day. That’s definitely a joint effort.

CH: What holiday traditions do you have in your family?
G: I love decorating with the whole family. I grew up with a tradition of trimming the Christmas tree. We would open a box of See’s Candy, and everyone in the family would take part in putting on the ornaments. We’d all eat candy, put Christmas music on and talk while we decorate. During the fall, I always look forward to harvesting pumpkins out of our garden and putting everything out and making it look nice.

T: For the last 25 years, we’ve taken the first Sunday of December every year to make Italian sausage. It started out with my Dad, my brother and I and four or five of my dad’s friends making 50lbs of sausage. It’s grown to about 35 people now, and we make 500 or 600lbs of sausage each year. We make a whole day of it. It’s a big holiday tradition.

CH: What’s your favorite holiday food?
T: I always like prime rib on Christmas Day. Being Italian, we usually have some kind of pasta, too. For me, Thanksgiving is just about the turkey and stuffing, all the sides. Wild rice casserole. All the good stuff.

G: Thanksgiving sides are the best. I don’t even eat the turkey, I just want the sides. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Yum.

CH: What do the holidays mean to you? What do you cherish about them?
G: Family. Everyone just getting to spend quality time together, enjoying each other’s company, that’s always foremost in my mind.

For the last four or five years, one of the things we’ve done as a family is adopt an [underprivileged] family to give gifts to. We get the kids involved with shopping for the family and make sure that they understand why we’re doing this. We try to make our kids aware that some people might not even have a warm blanky at night and that we’re shopping for this family to help out. That’s become one of the things I like most about Christmas time.

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