SEABROOK — Christmas is supposed to be a happy time, but for some, like the elderly, those living alone or who are experiencing financial problems, it can be a pretty lonely, stressful time.
There are some special people in the Seacoast communities who understand that, and for six years have put on the Gift of Giving dinner, a free holiday meal for anyone who needs food, toys or just some companionship. The event will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. on Dec. 22 at Seabrook Community Center, located on Route 1.
“If you’re going to spend Dec. 22 alone, eating a can of soup, come join us for a great meal and some good company,” said Chad Luby. “If you’re feeling the financial pinch and just need a good meal for your family, come along. Everyone’s welcome. There are no state lines for this dinner. We’re happy to see people, families, from any of the area cities and towns.”
The owner of the Butcher Shop and Restaurant on Route 1 in Hampton Falls, Luby and his wife, Jennifer, are the originators of the Gift of Giving dinner that started six years ago. The idea then was to help those in need, and that’s still the goal.
For the Lubys, the dinner is a reward in itself. According to Luby, the first year he and his wife put on the affair was the best Christmas he’d ever experienced. The meal gives back to its volunteers as much or more as it does to those it feeds and comforts, he said.
Luby, a chef with culinary degrees from Rhode Island’s Johnson and Wales College, cooks the meal, which consists of about 200 pounds of ham, 250 pounds of turkey and all the fixings. That works out to be about 13, 20-pound birds and 20 or more 8- to 10-pound spiral hams, and heaven knows how much stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls and sweets.
He and his volunteers will do some prep work at his butcher shop, but a lot of the cooking takes place at Seabrook’s Community Center.
“The community center is just a great location,” Luby said. “It has a good kitchen, and the venue works out well for the elderly because it’s all on the first floor.”
Needed this year, as in years past, are lots of volunteers, Luby said, people who will help set up and serve, and the rare breed who stick around to help clean up. Luby breaks the event down into two main shifts: the set-up crew needed from noon to about 5 p.m., and the clean-up crew taking over at 4 to about 8 p.m. The main concentration of help will be needed about 3, Luby said, but what amount of time volunteers can spend will be appreciated. Every volunteer who helps with the meal on Dec. 22 will get a Gift of Giving T-shirt.
Luby’s also looking for some baking help, to make the event more personal.
“If you have a special holiday dish you cook, consider making it for the Gift of Giving dinner,” Luby said. “If you make a great appetizer or holiday dessert, make one and drop it off with us.”
Usually the meal feeds from 300 to 400 people who drop by to share a meal and a chat with others. One person who always makes it a point to attend is pretty well known.
“Oh, Santa comes every year, never misses stopping by for the meal and to visit with the kids,” Luby said. “Every child who comes leaves with a gift.”
The gifts come from the Seabrook Firefighters Toy Drive, and Luby encourages those who’d like to help to donate a new, unwrapped toy to the firefighters’ campaign. Gifts are needed for children ages infant through teenager, he said.
A number of Seacoast businesses or groups pitch in with donations of cash to make the dinner possible. They include: Taylor River Farms, the Seabrook Fire Department, Hampton Area Rotary, Seabrook’s branch of Provident Bank and Dodge’s Agway, which also donates a Christmas tree.
Other groups, like Pepsi, Applecrest Farms, Seabrook police and fire departments and Lamprey River Screen Printing, donate products or people to help out.
Luby is hoping to attract other businesses to the cause. For example, he’d love a local bakery to get involved to offer some fresh-baked rolls and goodies.
Those who’d like to volunteer to work should call Jennifer Luby at 617-839-7161. Those who’d like to contribute a special holiday dish or product, or businesses wanting to take part, should call Chad Luby at 603-929-7427.
After years of working on this event, Jennifer Luby sees the Gift of Giving dinner in a special light.
“Working on this event, it’s the best Christmas gift people will ever give themselves,” she said.
For more information, visit www.hamptonbutcher.com and click on “Gift of Giving” on the menu across the top.