Reporter Jackie Majerus wrote this story:
City organizations are planning charitable meals on Christmas this year, offering a hot breakfast and a mid-day meal to anyone in need.
The Bristol Veterans Council is hosting its second annual breakfast at the American Legion Seichepry Post on Hooker Court on Christmas morning from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Pat Nelligan, chairman of the veterans council, said there isn't anywhere for the less fortunate to go on Christmas morning, even to get a cup of coffee.
"That's pretty sad," said Nelligan.
So volunteers will be cooking up 40 dozen eggs, along with bacon and sausage, homefries, pancakes, juice and coffee.
"We'll have plenty of food. It's for anybody that feels less fortunate and would like a hot breakfast," said Nelligan. "That's really what the Christmas spirit's about."
Last year, the Christmas breakfast brought 75 adults and about 10 children to the Legion, said Nelligan, including about 35 homeless veterans, a proportion he called "huge."
They're expecting a larger crowd this year, said Nelligan.
Later in the day, Meals for the Needy, a soup kitchen operated out of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, will offer a Christmas dinner from noon to 2 p.m.
A committee including volunteers from many churches in the community organizes the dinner, according to Shirley Dickau, associate in ministry at the church.
Last year, Meals for the Needy provided more than 300 meals, said Dickau, about half of them delivered.
"It's been very well received," said Dickau. Many of the deliveries, she said, are to elderly or homebound people who have a hard time getting to the church for the meal.
"People in the community deliver the meals," Dickau said.
People who want to have a meal delivered must call in advance, said Dickau. She said it helps organizers if people who are planning to attend the dinner at the soup kitchen also register, but said it is not an absolute necessity.
Dickau said she expects single people, couples and families to enjoy the meal of turkey and ham.
"It's the soup kitchen crowd and more," said Dickau.
At both the breakfast and the dinner on Christmas day, those who come to take part in the meal won't walk away empty handed.
Christmas presents will be part of the deal.
"Everybody that gets a meal also gets a gift," said Dickau.
She said the soup kitchen is still in need of donated gifts for the distribution. She said gift cards for small amounts – like $5 – for a coffee shop or supermarket would help because nearly everyone could use them.
Nelligan said those who come to the breakfast at the Legion will get a bag of "basic survival type of stuff" like long underwear, stocking caps, socks and gloves, a fleece blanket, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss and cleansing wipes.
The Crowley Auto Group covered the cost of the breakfast, said Nelligan, and Ocean State Job Lot gave the veterans a break in the price of the clothing and other items to give out.
The veterans group put posters about the breakfast up in churches, shelters, convenience shops and package stores, hoping to reach those in need.
The veterans are offering rides for anyone who needs one, said Nelligan.
For a ride, call Diane at (860)331-1167, Neal at (860)573-1523 or Tim at (860)977-2152 on Christmas morning.
As they did last year, the veterans will probably deliver some food and gifts to some of the known homeless who don't come to the breakfast.
The Salvation Army will not be offering a meal on Christmas Day, said caseworker Marge Rivera, but instead is distributing Christmas baskets this weekend. She said about 200 baskets, including a turkey and other food and gifts for parents to give their children, will be handed out.
This Sunday, toys will be distributed to children who come to the service at the Christian Fellowship Center, said Michelle Palmer, the promotion director at the church on Prospect Street.
She said the 10:30 a.m. Christmas service is open to anyone and that they'll be distributing toys collected by the United Way to children from newborn to age 16. She said 480 children are already registered for the toys, including 25 families from the congregation.
Registration ends today, but Palmer said the church will find something for any child that attends on Sunday.
On Saturday and Sunday, the soup kitchen operated by the Christian Fellowship Center will serve a hot meal from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. The Sunday meal will be a Christmas dinner, said Palmer.
From 9:30 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, Christmas Eve, the Storehouse, the food pantry operated by the Christian Fellowship Center, will be distributing groceries. Palmer said people can register that day, but said the food pantry verifies income for grocery distribution.
Dickau said ShopRite supermarket donated most of the food that will be served at the Christmas dinner and the Clarion hotel will cook the turkeys and hams for the meal.
Nelligan said there are plenty of volunteers for the veterans breakfast. He said giving to others in need is a great feeling.
"It's probably one of the best gifts we're going to get on Christmas," said Nelligan.
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