PLATTSBURGH - Benji's Caf and Bakery will once again open its doors to help feed those in need this holiday season.
Owners Harold G. and Betty A. Benjamin will host their second annual free Christmas dinner Saturday, Dec. 18, from 12 to 4 p.m. at their downtown Margaret Street business. When the Benjamins held the event last year, it was because they saw a need in the community. This year, the need is still there, said Harold.
"It hasn't gotten any better," Harold said of the homeless population and number of people in the community on one form of assistance or another. "It's about the same."
The idea behind the dinner is to once again help senior citizens, the disabled, and less fortunate members of the community by giving them a warm meal and some companionship for at least one day, said Harold. Last year's event saw approximately 300 people served at the restaurant and through deliveries made to nearby senior living complexes.
"We had a nice turnout," said Harold. "It felt really good knowing we could help people with at least one meal."
Betty agreed. She recalled one particular gentleman whose wife had passed a way a few years ago and had shared with the Benjamins how, until last year's dinner, he had eaten his Christmas dinner alone.
"We told him, 'Well you're not going to eat alone this year,'" said Betty. "We want to help people again this year. It feels good to help. It gives you a warm feeling."
The Benjamins are now in the process of making final preparations for this year's dinner, including recruiting volunteers to help with serving, and soliciting donations for the event.
"We got a lot of donations last year," said Betty. "People were dropping off turkeys and hams, different things we ended up cooking and using."
The menu for the dinner will once again consist of turkey or ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, vegetables, cranberry sauce, rolls and a dessert. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate and soda will also be served.
And, in addition to filling stomachs, the Benjamins hope to fill the needs of local nonprofit organizations by collecting donations of canned goods and money again this year for the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of Clinton and Franklin Counties, the Plattsburgh chapter of The Salvation Army, and The Christmas Bureau.
"It's important because there are a lot more families out there now, with the way the economy is, that need their help," said Harold.
Those wishing to make donations or volunteer for the dinner may contact the Benjamins Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., at 561-5900.