Christmas dinner brings together friends, strangers for fellowship


By Kalea Hall

khall@vindy.com

WARREN

Open the door of Aulizio’s Banquet Center on Christmas Day, and a warmth will fill you.

Hundreds experienced the warmth of the 28th annual Families Helping Families Christmas Day Dinner on Sunday.

Some came alone, while others brought the whole family to experience what Christmas is all about: caring about people and sharing the warmth of the holiday together — whether you are strangers or not.

“I have been coming about 15 years,” said Barbara Strother of Warren. “When I first started coming, I did some volunteer work. I liked to help out those who are less fortunate than I am because that’s what Christmas is all about. This time, I came out with my friends to spend time with them. It’s a great blessing to me that I get to sit here with my very best friends.”

The dimly-lit banquet hall gave off a romantic feeling that was enhanced by the sound of a soft flute playing in the background and Santa’s jolly laugh. Children ran around showing off new toys they received from Santa as a balloon maker made balloon animals and passed them out, offering lessons to anyone who wanted them.

The hall felt homey.

Around the corner from the main dining and fellowship area were steaming dishes with smiling volunteers scooping the offerings up for guests. On the menu: ham, turkey, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes and stuffing. Dunkin’ Donuts, Piccadilly Parlour, Perkins Restaurant and Bakery and Panera Bread all donated to the seemingly never-ending dessert table.

“It’s like clockwork anymore,” said Dan Polivka, Trumbull County Commissioner, of organizing the event. “We have so many good volunteers. They know their job each year.”

Polivka started the event 28 years ago. It’s meant for those in need of company and a free hot meal or just the hot meal. The hall is donated and Families Helping Families raises money to pay for the food.

“It’s always better to give than to receive,” Polivka said.

Smiles spread across the hall when Santa brought out toys for children in the room.

Warren resident Stacey Frazier’s daughter, Sahanna, 6, received a princess Play-Doh pack and play makeup. It was the second time the Fraziers came to the dinner. Last year, when Stacey’s mother died just before Christmas, she was feeling blue and thought the dinner would bring up her spirits. It did.

“When my mom died a part of me died with her,” she said. “It’s hard. I believe this is what she wanted me to do. Next year, I want to see if I can volunteer here. It’s not about receiving. It’s about giving. I just think it’s a wonderful thing they are doing.”

Quantina Thomas of Warren came out to the dinner to be a servant to others. She brought her grandchildren, a great niece and her daughter along to show them the real meaning of Christmas.

“It’s to show people no one is left out,” she said of the dinner. “No one is not thought about. For those that are not fortunate to have families, it’s to show them that they are counted for and they are loved.”

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