By John Durkan
02:20PM / Friday, December 21, 2012
People gathered at the First Congregational Church in North Adams on Friday morning for the annual Christmas Dinner.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The First Congregational Church held its 26th annual Christmas Dinner on Friday afternoon.
Valerie Schwarz, the executive director of the Berkshire Food Project, said the dinner helps bring friends together who otherwise might not celebrate the holiday season.
"This is like family to them," Schwarz said.
Schwarz said about 150 people came to the hourlong dinner, which featured ham, parsley potatoes, broccoli, carrots, salad and a "Chocolate Raspberry Bash" for dessert.
Everyone who attended the dinner also received a gift bag, which contained home-baked cookies donated through Storey Publishing, the church, Girl Scouts and others, fresh fruits, food and toiletries. Women's bags included necklaces, men's bags contained a personal hygiene kit and children's bags held coloring books, crayons and toys.
Ali Benjamin and her daughters Merrie, 11, and Charlotte, 6, helped hand out the bags. Merrie said mostly everyone appreciated the gesture.
"Most people say, 'Thank you, Happy Holidays,'" Merrie said.
The Berkshire Food Project hosts daily lunches on weekdays at noon at First Congregational Church on Main Street. In addition, the project participates in advocacy work and application help for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps), among other things.