CAPITAL REGION Thousands of free dinners and gifts will be available to adults and children regardless of income on Christmas Day, courtesy of several religious and community organizations seeking to emulate Biblical precepts of fellowship and helping the less fortunate.
“It needed to be done. We had people on the streets, couples at home sitting by themselves. Here, they can join together,” said D.A. Schuster, deacon of the Crossroads Community Church, 24 Division St., Amsterdam.
The church will start serving dinners at 1 p.m. and will continue serving them “until people stop coming in,” Schuster said. He expects to provide 100 full-course meals. “That is typical. Sometimes it is more, but it is seldom less,” he said.
Meals will consist of turkey, corn, squash, soup, salad and rolls. Gifts will be provided to families with children ages 12 and younger. This is the church’s sixth year of providing free Christmas dinners.
“It’s more than a meal. It is for fellowship. That is the whole reason for it. We get to join with one another and eat as a family,” Schuster said.
In Albany, the Capital City Rescue Mission, 259 South Pearl St., expects to provide 3,000 meals and 3,000 gifts on Christmas. The event is now in its 63rd year. The mission also provides meals on Thanksgiving and serves 700 meals daily.
“We are one of few places open in the downtown Albany area on Christmas. We are trying to do as many as need to come,” said mission Executive director Perry Jones.
The 3,000 meals are similar to last year’s numbers, Jones said. “It is a little bigger than normal from past years, but we know we have to be ready for that,” he said. “We nearly ran out of food on Thanksgiving and we have to be prepared for that,” he said.
The mission can seat 200 people but officials expect a quick turnaround for meals. “People go quickly because they know there are gifts out in the barn and they want to get those,” Jones said.
The mission will provide gifts to everyone regardless of age. Gifts for children will range from dolls and firetrucks to plush toys, balls and basketballs for boys, teddy bears and makeup for girls. Women will get cosmetics and a tote bag, and men will get hats, gloves and socks.
“Everybody gets candy,” Jones said. Donations support the effort with the mission purchasing some items.
Dinner runs from noon to 2:30 p.m. From 11 a.m. to noon, the mission will play host to a worship birthday for Jesus. “That is usually packed out. The kids get to blow out the candles for Christmas,” Jones said.
From noon to 3 p.m., people can visit “grandma’s living room,” a mission room where people can sit and play games or talk. “When people finish eating and don’t want to go home, they can go into the room for an after-dinner fellowship,” he said.
The mission’s dinner will consist of ham with mashed potatoes, homemade yams, homemade dressing, gravy and rolls, plus pies and cake. “It is just going to be a festive, wonderful meal. We want to make it special and are going all out to make it special,” Jones said.
The Church of the Holy Spirt, 161 S. Main St., Gloversville, expects to serve 900 meals on Tuesday. The church is taking reservations for its annual free Christmas dinner for people in need. People can order up to a maximum of four meals by calling 725-3143 between 9 a.m. and noon. There is no other prerequisites for getting a meal.
Also, the church is looking for volunteers to work beginning at 6 a.m. Christmas Day in the kitchen of the church’s community center, 161 S. Main St. Delivery volunteers should arrive at 9 a.m.
The dinner started as an outreach program in 1998 with volunteers from the Catholic community of the former Sacred Heart Church. Sacred Heart and St. Mary of Mount Carmel merged in 2008 to form the Church of the Holy Spirit.
In Saratoga Spring, free dinners will be provided through the New England Congregational Church, 24 Circular St. Organizers expect to serve 50 meals, starting at noon. Gifts will be provided.
Dinner will be served Christmas Day at the Schenectady City Mission from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Roast beef and mashed potatoes will be featured menu items at the facility at 512 Smith St. in the city.
Members of Temple Sinai will staff the event, as they have done each Christmas for years, said Matt Cohen, a member of the synagogue’s board.
“We do it to give people a break who run it every day, most of whom are not Jewish. This is their day to be with their families,” he said. “Our temple does a lot of outreach. The real motivation is to give people a break.”