Food Is Love : Mrs. Toolan’s Christmas Holiday Dinner Set for Dec. 24 at the Salvation Army

The story begins with a Chelsea kid, John “Jake” Toolan, growing up in a loving mom’s home on Franklin Avenue where there was a warmth of family and a passion for cooking, with the mom bringing the family together for glorious holiday dinners that she had prepared.

It continues with Debbie Clayman and John Mitchell wanting to do something special for the Chelsea community during the holiday season.

Together they’re organizing a Christmas Eve dinner, named “Mrs. Toolan’s Christmas” in memory of Jake’s mother, Phyllis, that will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 24, from 1 to 7 p.m. at The Salvation Army, Chestnut Street.

Jake, who is the executive chef at the Marriott Hotel, Peabody, will lead the team preparing the dinner. There will be music by DJ George Athas, a visit from Santa Claus and his Elves, and food baskets delivered to those who cook at home.

 Clayman is the wife of the late Richard Clayman, a prominent and beloved attorney who gave back much to the community. Debbie is carrying on that legacy of philanthrophy and kindness.

“There is no doubt that Richie would be helping us,” said Mitchell, while praising Debbie for her leadership and guidance in the organizing of the holiday dinner.

“I couldn’t do anything if it wasn’t for Debbie’s direction as far as making sure that the benefits, that all the food and the gifts that we’re going to do, go to the right people,” credited Mitchell. “Debbie has been a great source in our collaboration with the Salvation Army for this event. She’s been the captain of the ship.”

Jake Toolan Remembers His Mom

“I always think of my mom, who raised us by herself in Chelsea,” said Jake. “It’s a comforting thing. She gave me so much.” He has fond memories of his childhood and the holiday dinners. “I’ve been cooking for Marriott for 34 years, which is a long time, but the best memories I have is my mom and the family enjoying meals together,” said Jake. “I replaced my mom as the cook at some point, but I could never replace her in the other roles she had. But I realized how significant food is to family through those family dinners. Her passion for cooking, that where’s my passion for cooking comes from.” Jake said he is looking forward to returning to Chelsea and preparing a holiday meal for local residents. “Chelsea means a lot to me,” said Jake. “We should be thankful for what we had here. I’m so thankful for what my mother did for me – she was the strongest person I ever met. To do this act of charity in her memory is really important to me.” Jake said he is grateful to Debbie Clayman and John Mitchell for carrying the idea of a holiday dinner forward and making it a reality. “I reached out to John because he’s been involved in other charitable endeavors that we had worked on in the past,” said Jake. “And that’s where it went to Debbie and it all clicked.” Summing up what it has meant to him to be working with Clayman and Mitchell on a Chelsea-based project, Jake Toolan said, “We have good people helping us. We’re going to cook some good food and we’re going to be cooking from the heart.” For more information about “Mrs. Toolan’s Christmas,” contact Captain Gonzalez at The Salvation Army.

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