WARREN - The Warren Family Mission and Families Helping Families want people to know they don't have to be alone during the holidays.
Whether it's a family facing economic hardship or an individual looking for fellowship, the free community Christmas dinners are a way to relieve the stress.
Michelle Beauchene, director of development and public relations, said the Warren Family Mission wants to give the gift of love and support this season.
"We want to show the public we care about them and that they are special," she said.
Since the Mission's annual Christmas holiday meal isn't on Christmas day but Monday, Beauchene said in addition to dinner, the mission is also holding a brunch Wednesday at 361 Elm Road N.E., Warren.
She said a lot of families in the area are hurting due to lack of jobs and economic reasons, and those are the families who don't have extra money to spend on gifts or large meals.
But what about the people who are simply looking for companionship? Beauchene said the meals aren't exclusively for people struggling financially, but also for those who wish to see a friendly face.
"We have a heart for people who may not have a family during the holiday. We've definitely seen an increase in numbers over the years. A lot of people who may attend the meal on the 23rd may have other places to go, but what about the people who don't have other places to go? We want to make sure everyone has a holiday."
While the mission will be serving two meals this year, Beauchene said it's also offering assistance and guidance.
"There will be people available to talk to them about programs in the mission and the community. If they need help, we can guide them in the right direction ... get them back on the right track," she said.
She said the mission couldn't help families or individuals without the many volunteers and donors in the community who want to make a difference. Since the mission is solely funded on donations, she said it's apparent the people of Warren are compassionate for those less fortunate, regardless of the reason.
"A lot of families have told us they couldn't have a family dinner if it weren't for us, and that's what we are all about," Beauchene said.
Trumbull County Commissioner Dan Polivka said Families Helping Families also centers on people in need this holiday. Wednesday's annual free Christmas Day Dinner marks the 24th anniversary of the event, and he hopes to continue spreading the Christmas spirit.
"The dinner is for anyone in need this holiday," he said.
This year's dinner is in coalition with The Movement church and is aimed at bringing happiness to anyone and everyone - those alone because of the death of a spouse, divorce or a variety of other reasons, he said.
What started 24 years ago with Polivka and Terry Armstrong has grown from an attendance of 75 people to about 450, Polivka said. Each year's dinner includes entertainment for both adults and children, specifically a visit from good ol' St. Nick.
Polivka said the dinner is made possible with the help of the community - naming Panera Bread, Eat'n Park and Dunkin' Donuts as contributors - and volunteers.
"We hold the dinner in the afternoon so volunteers can spend the morning with their families and then come out and help," he said.
The feast is held at Aulizio's Banquet Center in Warren, and prepared by the restaurant's staff and then served by volunteers.
Polivka said he'd rather have individuals come enjoy a warm holiday meal and experience joy on Christmas day rather than be alone. The Families Helping Families will provide a gift to all children, and something special for the adults.
Beauchene also said in addition to receiving a present at the Christmas day brunch, any child who attends Monday's holiday meal will not only get a gift, but a chance to win a bike. To enter the bike drawing, all children have to be accompanied by a guardian.
The Warren Family Mission's annual Christmas meal and Christmas day brunch are both open to the public. Families Helping Families is requesting reservations for the Christmas day feast, but Polivka said he won't turn anyone away.
"We haven't run out of food yet. I hope this year's not the first," he said.