Filling up on Christmas cheer

Committee carries on holiday tradition in Naugatuck

Art Roppi, of Naugatuck, shares a laugh while talking with a family during the Naugatuck Christmas Day Dinner Committee’s annual Christmas dinner in 2011 at St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Naugatuck. This year’s dinner will be held Wednesday from 12 to 2 p.m. at the church. –RA ARCHIVE

Art Roppi, of Naugatuck, shares a laugh while talking with a family during the Naugatuck Christmas Day Dinner Committee’s annual Christmas dinner in 2011 at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Naugatuck. This year’s dinner will be held Wednesday from 12 to 2 p.m. at the church. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — On Christmas Day, holiday cheer will fill St. Michael’s Church on the Town Green in Naugatuck as diners dig into a sumptuous Christmas meal of turkey, ham and all the fixings in a festive atmosphere.

The Naugatuck Christmas Day Dinner Committee is once again hosting its annual holiday meal. The dinner is a Christmas tradition that has been going on for more than 20 years.

“Some people you only see once a year, and they show up like clockwork,” said Mike Kelly, who helps to organize the dinner.

Kelly said throughout the year he’ll run into familiar faces who ask whether the dinner is happening again.

“People look forward to it every year,” he said.

The dinner runs from 12 to 2 p.m. in the church hall at 210 Church St. Anyone and everyone who wants to come down and share a holiday meal with others is welcome to attend. Along with the meal and company, Santa Claus will make an appearance with gifts for all the boys and girls and Christmas music will fill the hall.

“It’s kind of like a festive party,” Kelly said.

The dinner takes an army of volunteers to put on, many who return every year to lend a helping hand.

“They come year after year, they’re wonderful people,” Kelly said.

More volunteers are always needed to help out. Volunteers are needed on Christmas Eve from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. to prep — peel hundreds of pounds of potatoes, turnips and carrots for the fresh, homemade meal — as well as decorate the hall.

Typically more than 200 people attend the dinner and another 200 or so dinners will be delivered to homebound people in Naugatuck and Beacon Falls, Kelly said.

On Christmas volunteers are needed to deliver meals between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m., serve the dinner and clean up afterwards to about 3 p.m.

The committee is also seeking donations of baked goods for dessert. Donations can be dropped off at the church on Christmas Eve from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Kelly said no cream-based desserts can be accepted because volunteers may not have the room to store them over night.

The dinner was started by John and Maureen Ford to teach their two children to appreciate the altruism of the holiday rather than the commercialism.

Kelly has been helping out with the dinner for the nearly 20 years. He got involved for the same reason the Fords started the dinner, to teach his two daughters, Morgan and Reagan Kelly, the true meaning of Christmas.

Now, that Kelly’s daughters are grown, they have taken on the roles in organizing the dinner.

“It’s our Christmas. This is what we expect for Christmas is to give,” Kelly said. “We enjoy it.”

The dinner is free. For more information, to volunteer or to sign up to receive a meal delivered, call Mike Kelly at (203) 723-1640 or (203) 509-3087.

Be Sociable, Share!