Story last updated at 3:10 p.m. Thursday, December 19, 2002

Diner to offer up 'season's eatings'
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

photo: news

  Photo by Sepp Jannotta, Homer News
Jackie Dentz, owner of Frosty Bear Ice Cream Parlor and Diner, sits in her Pioneer Avenue business Wednesday. She wil be serving a free Christmas dinner next week.  
Jackie Dentz, the Mama Bear at Frosty Bear Ice Cream Parlor and Diner, just might melt a few hearts this holiday season -- not with hot-fudge sundaes, but with a big plate of turkey, mashed potatoes and dressing.

On Christmas Day, Frosty Bear will serve up free candlelit dinners to those in need of a little good company and holiday cheer.

And when you give her that look -- the one that says: "Hey, Jackie, your halo is showing!" -- she'll simply laugh and tell you that she's doing it as much for herself as anyone else.

"It's selfish really," she said. "Because you don't want to just sit at home by yourself.

"Christmas can be a double-edged sword."

After her parents died, Dentz came face to face with the sadness the holidays can bring to those who might be a little lonely, down on their luck or simply unable to sit down with loved ones over a home-cooked feast of savory roasts and sweet delicacies.

So to counter her own potential Christmas blues, and to give a little something back to the community, Dentz decided to throw a Christmas party, complete with a dinner and donated presents under the tree for all who attend.

Dentz, who will cook all the meals herself, said the job of feeding up to 120 people has been made a lot easier by the help of the Homer Community Food Pantry, the Homer Salvation Army, McNeil Canyon Meats and numerous other generous souls.

Dentz stressed that the dinner is as much about filling the social void as it is about feeding the poor, adding that a healthy appetite is certainly appropriate for everybody.

The menu will feature the traditional Christmas fare -- soup and salad, entrees of either turkey or ham with trimmings of veggies, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy. And for dessert there will be pie and, of course, ice cream.

Dentz said AlasKab and Kostas Taxi have offered to provide free transportation to those who don't have a ride.

Because the Frosty Bear, located on Pioneer Avenue at the corner of Lake Street, can only accommodate around 30 people, the big feed will take place in four seatings, 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m.

Those who wish to attend should sign up in advance for the seating they prefer. Sign-up sheets are available either at Frosty Bear or at the Food Pantry, located beneath the Homer United Methodist Church, 770 East End Road. The pantry is open on Mondays from 1 to 3 p.m.

As of Wednesday, around 60 had signed up for Frosty Bear's Christmas feast.

While many people are contributing to the effort, food pantry volunteer Diana Jeska said the idea for a community Christmas dinner came from Dentz.

"She's really a sweetheart," Jeska said, adding that Dentz's generous spirit just solidifies her own faith in Homer as a charitable community.

"It's been quite a year to watch how generous this community can be -- people here are just so giving."

Those familiar with Frosty Bear say that Dentz's generosity extends beyond the holiday season.

For starters, Dentz prides herself on giving a little something back to her staff, offering $1,000 in college scholarship money to her long-term employees. If they return and work over a summer while they're in school, they get another $1,000, she said.

Dentz said one of her staff, 22-year-old Kristin Bitterman, had signed on to help out as a favor. Now, many months later, Bitterman's treated like one of the family. With pink hair shining like a Christmas tree ornament, Bitterman said she'll soon head off to attend the San Francisco Academy of Art. And as for the kids that frequent her place, Dentz keeps a pair of watchful and protective eyes on them as well.

"Mama Bear is right there," Dentz said, laughing.

While not your typical ice cream parlor clientele, members of the Coast Guard in Homer, many of whom are young and far from home, have also found the Frosty Bear to be a friendly, comfortable place.

"She really made it feel like home," said Petty Officer Nick Sawyer. "Every time I need something, she's there."

The stuffed Papa Bear normally sitting at one of the shop's tables with his teddy bear partner caught Sawyer's eye one day and was commissioned to make a cross-Gulf of Alaska voyage on the USCGC Roanoke Island.

"He was received very well," Sawyer said of the teddy bear who came along to remind the crew of the little ice cream shop. "It was definitely a morale booster."

To return the favor, Sawyer and his fellow Roanoke Island crewman Mike Sawyer (no relation), stopped by on Monday to hang some Christmas decorations.

Some of the Roanoke Island crew and other volunteers will be on hand Christmas day to help serve up the feast, allowing Dentz to give her employees the day off.

As she glanced around her clean, well-lit place, Dentz agreed that being mindful of helping a neighbor in need is not a seasonal concept.

"The spirit of Christmas is something that should be with us all year," she said. "Right now we are a nation that thinks, 'It's all about me.'

"I think it's time we change our motto to: 'It's all about you.'"

Sepp Jannotta can be reached at sjannotta@homer