Manchester Resident Holds Christmas Dinner for Homeless

By Jamie Ratliff
|  Tuesday, Dec 24, 2013  |  Updated 10:52 PM EDT
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Manchester Resident Holds Christmas Dinner for Homeless

NBCConnecticut.com

With white tablecloths, silverware, and a dinner menu, the tables are set inside the Manchester Country Club for Christmas, but it's not for the members, it's for the homeless.

"I had a lady that actually helped us when we first came to the United States, so she's the one who actually inspired me to do all this," said R.J. Gomes.

A high school senior in 2001, Gomes was supposed to collect cans for a school project. Instead, he decided to do a little more by creating "Make a Christmas."

"Since then I just kept doing it every single year, and it just grew and grew and grew," said Gomes.

More than 400 people in need from seven shelters from Manchester to Hartford to New Britain will sit down for a warm Christmas meal on Wednesday.

Tucked away in another room are toys stacked high, waiting for Santa to arrive and hand them out to the kids.

"Makes you feel great, especially when the kids are sitting on Santa's lap and picking out the presents they want and smiling," said Gomes.

Last year there was no Santa and no smiles for "Make a Christmas."

"So many people backed out because the economy was so bad. I actually had to cancel it last year," said Gomes.

This year so many have offered to help that the organization has had to turn volunteers away.

Manchester Mayor Leo Diana and his brother Vincent began helping a few years ago and believe the event highlights the best of Manchester.

"I'm glad there's people like R.J. out there and other community and civic leaders that are willing to donate their time, money, and support to good causes like this," said Mayor Diana.

"It's the time of year when you're really conscious of others and other's needs, but this really should be a 365 day event," said Vincent Diana.

Gomes says his goal is to expand his program well outside Connecticut and to help out more than just during the holidays.

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