‘It’s a great feeling’: East Providence to welcome hundreds in need for Christmas community dinner


EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A tradition in East Providence is back on after having to cancel last year due to the pandemic.

The annual East Providence Community Christmas Dinner at the Brightridge Club welcomes hundreds of people each year who are less fortunate or don’t want to spend the holiday alone.

“We have a group of people that put this together, it means a lot to us, and it’s a lot of volunteers…we have grown big,” said Stephen Costa, one of the organizers of the event.

Costa said a group of six people run the event along with dozens of volunteers. They came up with the idea six years ago after deciding they wanted to give back to their community.

“A couple of us got together … we just started talking, said ‘let’s do it’ and we did it,” Costa explained. “It became a great event the first year, [the] second year was extraordinary. It was really big and then we just kept growing ever since. Luckily, we’re able to do this every year.”

The event was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, and they’re expecting large numbers this year because of that. Their first dinner drew around 100 people, but it’s since grown to around 500 people.

“We have a tremendous meal. This is all donated by the community. It’s gonna be ham, turkey, there’s going to be meatballs, two different types of baked chicken, there’s gonna be meat and potatoes and all the fixings, corn, everything else,” Costa said.

But it’s not just a free meal. Costa said donations are collected throughout the year and displayed for those attending who are in need.

“We give clothes, hats, gloves, scarves, toiletries, toys, we have friends of ours come in and give haircuts, we have girls come in and give ladies manicures, and we have a table for kids that we decorate cookies,” he said.

Volunteers even transport people to and from the dinner using buses donated by the city. They make stops at various locations in East Providence and Pawtucket, as well as to Crossroads Rhode Island and Kennedy Plaza in Providence.

“Everything is paid for, everything has been donated from our community, so it’s a great event that East Providence puts together and it’s a great feeling,” Costa said.

Costa said that great feeling is hard to put into words.

“It’s a feeling I can say you’d have to be here to feel it. It’s awesome when you’re done cause we have all of them come to us, I even have a lot of them arguing with me, ‘oh, I want to help you clean.’ ‘No, this is your day, we’re doing it for you!’ And it is, it’s an awesome feeling,” he said.

The event starts at noon on Christmas Day and goes until 5 p.m. The dinner is open to anyone, no questions asked.

“We invite anyone that’s alone, don’t spend Christmas alone, come and join us,” Costa said. “It’s open to anyone that’s alone, the homeless, it’s our Christmas community so anybody in the community if you need a place to come, we’re here for you.”

If you’re in need of transportation to and from the dinner, call (401) 999 0029 or (401) 442-02423.

For more information on the event, click here.

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