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Bandera Christmas Dinner feeds thousands

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Bandera Christmas Dinner feeds thousands
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Christmas is the one of the days where people get to sit down with family and friends for an enjoyable meal, but not everyone can afford a big dinner and some people don't have anyone to eat with. Elyse Mickalonis takes us to a Southern Tier tradition that brings people with a variety of backgrounds together.

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- Every Christmas Day for the past 23 years, the Binghamton community has come together for one big dinner.

“It’s a great way to get to know your community feed people that don’t have anyone are homeless or don’t have any food,” said Angela Bonnici, an event volunteer.

Brian Allen, another event volunteer, added, “If you look around a lot, there’s families around here they can afford this stuff. It’s great to give back to them.”

Not everyone can afford a giant holiday feast, one of the many reasons why the Bandera family started serving the community delicious dinners back in 1989. Last year’s meal fed about 5,000 people. Many think more people are in need now than ever before.

“It just shows the governments got a lot more work to do there’s a lot of people coming out. I volunteer at three kitchens here,” said Dennis Buntun, a Rochester resident.

Donald Carpenter, a Binghamton resident, added, “The economy, people losing their jobs not having enough to live on, this supplements their food budget.”

Carol Freije, an event volunteer, said, “A lot of people were affected by the flood this time. It seems like there are more people here than last year. I hope we’ll recover soon.”

The dinner offers guests the chance to sit down and relax with others. Something organizer Bill Bandera says is a big part of the day.

"Everyone's equal here, as a matter of fact. Four tables over there is a doctor and his wife eating here with us today,” said Bandera. “There's no disparity in the generosity of the giving of the people and it does meet a real need in the community."

Bandera hopes to continue giving the gifts of friendship, food and fun for many more years to come.

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