An annual Christmas community meal was canceled; then, the Christian Center stepped in

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PITTSFIELD — Faustina Mahl's wide-eyed look and infectious smile said it all — she was enjoying her first Christmas at the Christian Center.

Snuggled in the arms of her mother, the 8-month-old gleefully watched her parents Kristie and Eric Mahl enjoy a roast turkey dinner with mashed potatoes, stuffing and green bean casserole.

Married 18 months, the Mahls are reveling in the baby's first noel.

"It's special in not focusing on presents, but the presence of love from the Christian Center," Eric said.

The young family joined their friends and dozens of other men, women and children gathered at the Robbins Avenue facility for a Christmas Day feast, replacing — at least for this year — the annual meal at American Legion Post 68.

The veterans organization announced around Thanksgiving it had to cancel their 30-plus year tradition that in recent years had served some 400 dine-in and take out meals.

Upon hearing about the cancellation, The Christian Center, known for its Thanksgiving Day dinner, didn't hesitate to fill in for Post 68.

"We wanted to make sure we had a place for the community to go [on Christmas,]," said Kas Maroney, a development associate at the center.

"It's Christmas; people have to eat," added Steve Fillio, overseeing the kitchen crew dishing out the holiday repast.

In all, some 35 volunteers either helped prepare the meal on Christmas Eve or set the tables and served the food from 12 to 1:30 p.m. on Monday.

Gloria Gennari did both.

"I'm glad word got out that the center was doing a dinner," she said.

Gennari was among several volunteers who worked tirelessly for the American Legion dinner for years.

Despite the short notice and wintry weather, organizers hailed the Christmas Day dinner a success; they served 150 dine-in and take-out meals, many delivered by several of the volunteers.

"We had a full house [at noon] and a lot of dinners to go," said board of directors member Bob Sykes.

Volunteer Chris Reardon cited the holiday meal as the center simply reaching out, especially to those in need.

"I know a lot of people who rely on the Christian Center," he said. "I'm very thankful to have the privilege to give back to the community."

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshioreeagle.com and 413-496-6233


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