‘Feed 1,000’ plans dinner to bring Christmas cheer to Rhode Island’s less fortunate

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PROVIDENCE –The Rhode Island Convention Center will be filled with Christmas spirit on Saturday afternoon when “Feed 1,000” serves a free, nutritious holiday dinner to individuals and families in need.

Priority Management Group, a Pawtucket-based company, has held a gala holiday party for its employees for the past 12 years, but company officials recently decided to forego the annual event and instead reach out to those less fortunate in the community.

“We wanted to be creative in giving back,” said Robert Skeffington, one of the firm’s partners and a communicant at St. Augustine Church, Providence. “We had a big, bold goal.”

Skeffington, joined by business partners Richard Santilli, a member of St. Ambrose Parish, Lincoln, and Raymond Jorgensen, reached out to local organizations and after several weeks of planning, “Feed 1,000” Rhode Islanders is becoming a reality.

“It has been a very difficult couple of years for many Rhode Island families who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads or put food on their table each night,” said Skeffington. “The idea to feed 1,000 was a collaborative idea that began internally and quickly gained support from government officials and not-for-profits.”

He added that the business partners decided to set a lofty goal because they felt it would be easier to get community-based organizations involved in a large-scale holiday project rather than a smaller event.

In addition to a full-course chicken and baked ham dinner, guests will receive gift bags containing toiletries, and will enjoy entertainment, snacks and a coffee station offering free thermoses and cookies. The Rhode Island Department of Health will sponsor a flu shot clinic and a blood pressure station.

In addition, company employees have conducted a coat drive, collecting 500 warm winter coats that will be distributed at the event.

Skeffington emphasized that while the goal of the innovative holiday program is to serve 1,000 individuals, no one will be turned away.

“A number of folks are on the cusp, they don’t know where to turn,” Skeffington said. “We want to help folks and really make a difference.”

He thanked Bishop Thomas J. Tobin and Episcopal Bishop Geralyn Wolf for their support of the event.

“We couldn’t have had two better sponsors,” he said, adding that both bishops quickly embraced the plan to hold a festive dinner to benefit those less fortunate.

Other sponsors include The State of Rhode Island, Office of the Governor; City of Providence; United Health, Providence Police Dept.; La Salle Bakery; The Wellness Center, Rhode Island Department of Health; Project Undercover; CVS; Ocean State Adult Immunization Coalition; Yarlas, Santilli, Kaplan and Moran, CPAs; Format Printing; Falvey Linen Supply and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island.

Doors open at 11:30 a.m.; dinner will be served from noon-4 p.m. at the center, located at One Sabin St.

More information about the event may be found on www.feed1000.org.