NORTH ADAMS -- Two community dinners, free and open to the public, will be held in North Adams in celebration of the Christmas season.
The Berkshire Food Project will host its annual meal starting at noon, on Friday, in the First Congregational Church, 134 Main St. The American Legion will hold its 57th annual "Be Our Guest" Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at its 90 American Legion Drive post.
Valerie Schwarz, who has served as the Food Project's executive director for 19 years, said she enjoys seeing people come together during the event. Last year's dinner drew 140 people.
"A lot of folks we serve will be alone on Christmas, or don't have families," she said. "But on this day, in the dining room, they are one family."
Schwarz said the doors will open at 11:30 a.m., and attendees can come in for coffee and tea. The dinner, served restaurant-style starting at noon, will be ham, pineapple chutney, parsley potatoes, and vegetable medley, followed by French pastries for dessert. Each attendee will receive a gift bag to take home, containing fruit, toiletries and cookies baked by volunteers.
For the American Legion event, William Schrade, a Legion member since 1968, is in his 15th year as dinner chairman.
"When it started, they were only serving eight, nine or 10 people," Schrade said. "We've come a long way since then."
Last year, the Legion served more than 500. That number is down from a peak of 790 people eight years ago.
"We want to believe the reason is that more people have families or somewhere to go on Christmas," he said.
Home deliveries start at 10:30 a.m. on Christmas Day. In previous years, volunteers have distributed 150 to 200 meals to residents of Florida, North Adams, Adams, Cheshire, Savoy, Williamstown, Clarksburg and Stamford, Vt. In addition, the Readsboro American Legion sends several volunteers to pick up and deliver 50 meals.
The meal will begin with turkey soup and be followed by a ham dinner with mashed potatoes and vegetable medley. There will be apple and pumpkin pie for dessert. In addition to the sit-down meal, attendees will be sent home with a sandwich, cookies and fruit.
Schrade said special guests will include Mayor Richard Alcombright, City Council members, and Santa Claus himself.
Rides to the American Legion or meal deliveries can be arranged by calling the Legion at 413-664-9004.
Schrade said the event will be staffed by plenty of volunteers.
"I have people show up to serve food, and I have to say, ‘Well I have enough people,' " he said. "There's just so many that want to help."
The dinner is sponsored by donations from Williams College, the Eagles, Elks, Veterans of Foreign Wars and other community groups.
"Seeing the community come together for this is really a heartwarming thing," Schrade said.
To reach Edward Damon, email