What’s Christmas Day, without a warm meal? Dozens of volunteers at God’s Community Dinner in Wallingford want to make sure no neighbor has to worry about that this year.
“Much has been given, so much needs to be returned to the community—and it’s our pleasure to be able to do this,” said Peter Chester as he prepared the cranberry sauce in Wallingford’s First Congregational Church kitchen.
“This is turkey that we cooked,” John Cristini told NBC Connecticut as he walked by the ovens, “this is stuffing here, and we also have potatoes.”
They’ll prepare nearly 400 meals for those in need this holiday with food donations from across town.
“It really brings everybody together, it’s really special,” the event’s volunteer coordinator, Bettina Cristini, said.
25 miles away in Waterbury, the roast beef was almost ready to feed hundreds of people too.
“Every year it’s just a big Christmas tradition, and now we have all of our cousins and our aunts and uncles that come by,” Julian Focareta said. He’s been volunteering at the First Congregational Church of Waterbury’s Christmas Dinner for 14 years, and it’s become a family affair for his big Italian family.
“That’s my niece, my son, my grandson, and the other one is my grandson,” his grandmother, Filomena, told us as we walked through the prep area.
When the food is ready, and the tables are set, the doors opened so the Community Christmas Dinner could begin.
“It’s a blessing to be able to come here and be with my family,” said Lori Cormier from Bridgeport, “and to be able to get food and stuff and just to be around people. It’s really nice, we come out to be social.”
John Secula from Waterbury described the dinner as, “a merry Christmas gift from God. Where can you go when you’re on a Christmas day when you have nowhere to go, be around a lot of good people, and have a good meal.”
“Oh man, this is really good!” J Felton from Waterbury said. The green beans reminded him of his Christmas dinners at home in North Carolina when he was a child. “And it came in time, and I’m very enjoying myself,” Felton added.
Here, Christmas becomes a day of giving—putting the simple gifts in life into perspective for all those involved.
“Anyone can be found in this position,” volunteer Noél Anderson told NBC Connecticut as he served guests water. “Nothing is guaranteed—tomorrow you could lose your job, have a tragic event and you need help. If I was in that position, I would love to have someone cater to me because it’s an uplifting thing.”
Both community dinners NBC Connecticut visited on Christmas also have volunteers who deliver meals to those who can’t make it out of their homes for the feast.