NEWPORT CITY – The aroma of turkey and stuffing filled the air Sunday as 200 or so area residents enjoyed a free holiday dinner at the American Legion Post 21 on Christmas Day. This was just one of the many dinners held across the region.
Tim Daley, who hosted the 28th annual Reynold and Esther Choinere Christmas Dinner, put a lot of time, money and effort into organizing the event.
“This is my personal Christmas,” said Daley, who doesn’t purchase presents or send cards. “I put all my money into this dinner.”
This year’s dinner drew about 60 more people than last year. In addition, about 35 local residents volunteered to make the dinner a success. One of those volunteers was Carrie Steele of Derby.
“For me, it’s about remembrance,” Steele said. She pointed to a Christmas tree in the corner. Whoever attended the dinner had the opportunity to write a name on a paper ornament and hang it on the tree in memory of someone they loved. “A lot of people write names of parents, grandparents, spouses, and pets. We’re having dinner in celebration for all that.”
Steele wanted the people who attended the dinner to see a friendly face.
Even the younger generation got into the act. Cypher Aiken, 12, of Coventry, volunteered at the dinner with other family members. Aiken said it was important to help at the dinner, which provided a Christmas meal for some people who might not otherwise have had one.
Aiken’s favorite part of the day was serving drinks.
Other volunteers drove meals to people who could not attend the dinner.
To give the dinner a warm feeling, local business owners sponsored eight-foot panels featuring their businesses and area sites. Andrien "Yellow" Patenaude sketched out the buildings and local artists painted them. Part of the proceeds paid for some of the food.
American Legion Post Adjutant Bill Graham said it’s obvious the attendees enjoyed the dinner and he hopes it will continue for years to come.
“This dinner means family and friends gathering together and having a good time,” said Bradley Correia of Newport City. “It’s a wonderful social event.”
“I think it’s a wonder that we can come together as a community to share, be happy and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ,” said John Hall of Newport. “It’s a wonderful time.” Hall had high praise for the meal and the volunteers who prepared it.