WATERVILLE — A traditional turkey dinner with a side of holiday cheer is on the menu Tuesday for the 12th annual Central Maine Family Christmas Dinner.

The dinner, held at the Waterville Elks Banquet and Conference Center at 76 Industrial Road, is free and open to the public, and for the last several years has drawn about 800 people annually.

Its purpose is to bring people together on Christmas who might otherwise be alone, said Susan Spencer, vice president of the Central Maine Family Christmas Dinner.

“The original founders had no children at home and they were seeing so much sadness around,” said Spencer, whose husband, Robert, is now president of the dinner. “They were feeling kind of lonely and they didn’t like that. They didn’t want anyone to feel alone at Christmas, so that’s kind of our motto — to never spend Christmas alone.”

This year’s dinner will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Christmas Day. In addition to a dinner of turkey, squash, vegetables, stuffing and cranberry sauce, Spencer said there will be sleigh rides, giveaways, visits with Santa Claus and entertainment.

Organizers are also hoping to send every child home with a stocking. The meal is paid for by donors from throughout the Central Maine community and fundraising done by the dinner’s leaders throughout the year.

The event typically draws over 100 volunteers and those who are still interested can sign up via the dinner’s Facebook page, or just show up, Spencer said.

Van rides will also be available in Waterville and surrounding towns for those without transportation and can be scheduled in advance by sending a Facebook message to the dinner’s page or calling 877-5775.

The Central Maine Family Christmas Dinner was started in 2007 by Ziggy Lawrence and his wife, Kim, after they wanted a place to volunteer on Christmas Day and couldn’t find any local community dinners at which to work.

Though last year’s event had a smaller-than-normal turnout due to a Christmas Day snowstorm, Tuesday’s forecast is expected to be sunny with a daytime high of 27 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

“I love this program,” Spencer said. “I think it’s just a wonderful thing to do for the community. I get overwhelmed with how much our volunteers love being a part of this. It’s very rewarding.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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