WINSLOW — What started as a challenge by a friend 15 years ago is now a yearly Christmas mission for Norman “Ziggy” and Kim Lawrence.

The husband and wife of Albion had volunteered at a community dinner in Bangor, and a friend told Ziggy Lawrence he could do the same in Waterville. And so he did — for 10 years.

This year, after a four-year hiatus, the Lawrences returned to holding the Central Maine Family Christmas Dinner once again.

“Our whole thing is don’t spend Christmas alone,” Ziggy Lawrence said.

As always, the holiday meal was free to anyone who wanted to join at lunchtime on Christmas Day, funded entirely through thousands of dollars in donations. Though this year, it was held at a new venue, Winslow Elementary School, where Lawrence works as a custodian, instead of the Elks lodge in Waterville where it used to be held.

Organizers were ready to serve at least 600 people, and perhaps up to 1,000, which was the biggest turnout the dinner has had.


Lawrence wasn’t sure what to expect for turnout this Christmas, given the break of several years in holding the event and the new location. But with last week’s storm knocking out power for days for many in the region, it was possible many had their food spoil and were looking for a meal, he said.

AnnaMichelle Worthley, left, and daughter Serenity Worthley, 11, share the microphone while singing ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’ and other Christmas songs Monday during the Central Maine Family Christmas Dinner at Winslow Elementary School. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

By around 12 p.m., an hour after the dinner began, the cafeteria was about one-third full, and volunteers were beginning to chip away at the 260 pounds of turkey that they began cooking on Friday. A bigger rush was expected around 1 p.m., volunteers said.

Many people may not want to come just to eat alone, so they instead decide to volunteer, Lawrence said. In the dinner’s first year, there were just as many volunteers as attendees.

Stacey Hachey has been volunteering at the dinner for at least 10 years, she said, standing next the coffee station that she was manning. As a single mother, the event gives her a sense of “community and camaraderie” on the holiday.

“It was better than being alone at home,” Hachey said about the first year she volunteered.

At the dessert table, Maria Farmer of Detroit said she heard an ad on the radio for the event and decided to volunteer. Farmer brought her grandson, Jerrick McGahuey, to teach him that Christmas isn’t all about getting gifts.


Volunteer Penny Kinney, right, dishes up sliced turkey Monday during the Central Maine Family Christmas Dinner at Winslow Elementary School. To the left, volunteers Linda Higgins, and Tammy Knight, center, serve stuffing and sweet potatoes. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“We didn’t have anything going on and we figured we’d be helpful,” Farmer said.

There are fresh faces each year, too, according to the Lawrences. “Some people call and volunteer,” Kim Lawrence said. “But a lot just show up.”

Some volunteers were out in vans picking up people without transportation. In past years, volunteers have made pick-ups as far away as Hartland and Winthrop, Lawrence said.

Organizers offer transportation instead of to-go meals because the goal of the dinner is to bring people together in the same space, Ziggy Lawrence said.

“People of all kinds of walks of life come in,” said volunteer Mary Blaschke, of Sidney, who has volunteered at the dinner three times.

Meta Vigue, of Waterville, was planning on attending with some friends, but their plans changed. Instead, she came with her daughter, Sonia, and they ate their meal sitting next to people they did not know.


“They couldn’t have done a better job,” Vigue said after her meal.

There was more than just the turkey dinner to add to the holiday spirit. In one corner, a man tied balloon animals, including a reindeer. Across the room, a few people sang Christmas songs.

By the entrance to the cafeteria, Santa Claus was seated and ready to hand out gifts to children as they left.

Santa, played by man who said he legally changed his name to Kris Kringle and has been playing the character for 42 years, said he had a message of joy for central Maine — and the whole world.

“Just love life, love people,” he said. “Christmas to me isn’t a holiday. It’s a way of life.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.