WATERVILLE — The Central Maine Family Christmas Dinner really is about family for the new head organizer, Jeff Cucci.

He and his wife, Karen, volunteered at the free turkey dinner together for five years up until 2016, when she died of cancer. Last year’s event was dedicated to her memory, and now the Cuccis’ children and seven grandchildren all volunteer alongside Cucci at the dinner to continue that tradition of giving to others during the holiday season.

“It’s just a good thing to be doing,” Cucci said.

In its 11th year, the free dinner will be held Christmas Day — Monday, Dec. 25 — from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Waterville Elks Banquet and Conference Center at 76 Industrial Road, which is a dead-end road off Armory Road, near the Elm Plaza intersection.

A traditional turkey dinner including fresh mashed potatoes and homemade desserts will be served with enough food to feed more than 900 hungry guests, Cucci said. There also will be gifts for children, Santa Claus will visit at noon, and Cucci’s granddaughter will be making balloon animals. The only change from previous years is that the event will not feature a hayride.

Volunteers plan to start cooking the holiday meal at 9 a.m. Saturday and continue the preparation until the dinner is served Monday. Cucci said about 300 volunteers will be involved with the event by the time everyone has eaten and the plates have been cleaned.

People still can go to the event’s Facebook page if they would like to help at the dinner or if they want to make a donation. However, donations will not be accepted on Christmas Day, Cucci said.

It takes months of planning and about $10,000 to put on the dinner. A good portion of the budget comes from the Fairfield VFW, Cucci said. Oakhurst Dairy and Fred’s Coffee in Oakland also help with the meal.

This is Cucci’s first year in charge of organizing the annual event, taking over for the dinner’s founder, Ziggy Lawrence, who had been running things for 10 years.

“Ziggy is a friend of mine,” Cucci said. “He’s done a great job of putting this event together over the years. We’re all just trying to keep it going.”

In addition to Karen Cucci, last year’s supper was dedicated to Kathy Marciarille, of Rome, who died from her injuries after she was thrown from a horse-drawn wagon that was carrying those who had volunteered at the 2015 Christmas dinner. Another dinner volunteer was driving the car that hit the wagon.

In Augusta, the Emmanuel Lutheran Episcopal Church and the Augusta Community Warming Center also are sponsoring a free Christmas Day dinner open to the community. The meal, consisting of turkey, vegetables and pie, will be held from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. Monday at the church at 209 Eastern Ave. Meals also will be available to guests of the warming center during that time.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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