Christmas dinner serves up warm tidings

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Once again, the Ecumenical Conference of Churches of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls will serve a Christmas dinner to local residents in need of a holiday meal.

Since most restaurants are closed on Christmas day, many people can’t go out buy a dinner, event chairman Mike Kelly said. He said they usually get a lot of older couples looking to share their holiday with others.

“It’s not nice to be alone on Christmas day,” he said.

Many people come back each year.

“Over the years you get to know them. … We’re just happy to do it for them,” Mike said.

The community dinner has been a huge annual undertaking for over 20 years.

Each year, over 50 volunteers prepare 500 pounds of turkey and ham with all the trimmings, including a couple hundred pounds of mashed potatoes and turnips.

Saint Michael’s Church hall will host about 200 diners at noon Christmas day.

Other volunteers will deliver a couple hundred meals free of charge to anyone who can’t make it to the hall.

The whole meal is home-made and the hall is festively decorated like a restaurant.

“It’s kind of elegant actually,” Mike said.

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

Current organizers, sisters Morgan and Regan Kelly, started volunteering the same way. When they were eight, their father, Mike, encouraged them to help out cooking and cleaning. Fourteen years later, they’re running the event. And they’re not alone.
Many people have been volunteering for two decades, Mike said.

“It’s good public service,” he added.

Mike said his girls are better organized than when he used to run the dinner.

Dinner organizers are looking for volunteers to help clean and chop veggies, decorate the hall, and set up tables and chairs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 24. Organizers are asking volunteers to bring their own carving knives to help carve the turkeys and hams. They also need volunteers Dec. 25 to serve, deliver, and clean up after the meal. The organizers appreciate donations of desserts such as cakes, cookies, and pies, but cannot accept cream desserts as they have no refrigerator to keep them. Donators can bring desserts to the church from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Dec. 24.

Donations for the dinner come from all over the community, including participating churches, the Elks Club Lodge # 967 of Naugatuck, the Naugatuck Retired Teachers League, and Sibby’s Automotive.

“The important part is that the warmth is there for the people when they come to it. And it’s a very friendly festival,” Mike said.