BRATTLEBORO — A Christmas breakfast aimed not only at feeding the lonely but many more is no different this year as Jadi Flynn continues her grandfather's tradition.
"He also did it as a pay-it-forward to the community for help that he had received years before. He was in an accident and was out of work during the holiday season," said Flynn. "And the community really stepped forward and helped him and the family get through Christmas, the hard times. He was out of work for 11 months."
The idea began when her grandfather, Charlie Slate, dropped his wife off at work on Christmas day then drove around. He noticed there was nowhere to go.
All of Slate's children had families and kids of their own so he didn't want to interfere, said Flynn. Slate discussed with his wife the possibility of starting something up.
"The first year they served 50 people," Flynn said. "It has now grown. We served 756 or 758 free breakfasts last year. We had a record number of deliveries last year — over 250 — to all the municipalities and all of the elderly facilities and then any call-ins."
While leafing through her grandmother's scrapbooks, Flynn recently discovered that the event was being improperly documented. The breakfast started in 1982 rather than 1981 as previously reported, making this the 33rd year.
Breakfast will be served from 8 to 11 a.m. on Christmas morning at the American Legion in Brattleboro. Pancakes, eggs, sausage, hash browns, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, orange juice and cookies can be found there. Drivers start leaving with food a half hour before doors open.
Flynn expects to see other families who have made the breakfast their tradition, as well as homeless people and new people too.
"I think people just like to come and enjoy the holiday spirit that have no where to go," she said. "We created a Facebook event to reach out a little more."
"Especially to the younger crowd," added Megan Walker, Flynn's daughter who is a senior at University of New Haven.
Flynn is asking requests for deliveries be made before Dec. 23 by calling her at 802-258-0481. That's not saying her crew won't get to people calling in Christmas day, she said, but last year saw "a lot of calls" being made the day of.
"So when we had all these calls we weren't expecting, it was a little overwhelming," she said.
Also wanted are cookie donations. Those baked goods can be dropped off at the Legion anytime during Christmas week. They are then packaged and given out as gifts to attendees as they leave the breakfast. Recipes are required in order to be sensitive to food allergies.
Donations help keep the event going as Flynn "foots the bill" for eggs, sausage and hash browns. Products are given from local businesses and checks can be made payable to The Christmas Breakfast and mailed to Flynn at P.O. Box 8023 in Brattleboro.
The goal is to serve 1,000 breakfasts.
"I plan to keep doing it as long as it's financially stable," Flynn said.
Her mother Judy Flynn intended on taking over organizing the breakfast in 2013. She had worked side by side with Slate for the 15 years in which he ran it.
"Unfortunately, she passed away eight days before Christmas," Flynn said, choking up. "That was one of her requests to me was to not let grandpa's tradition die. Because Charlie (Slate) was her dad. It's been heartfelt. This is definitely something the family is so appreciative of."
Fran Willette had taken over the event after Slate. Then Deirdre Baker ran it.
Flynn said Baker "stepped up to the plate" in 2013 and organized the breakfast one last time even though she had planned on retiring. Although Flynn took it over last year, Baker still appears on the radio to promote it.
Preparing this breakfast saw Flynn and Walker constantly discussing the volunteer list, food orders and more through phone calls.
"It's a challenge just getting everything together and ready for that day," said Walker, who Flynn hopes will someday run it. "It's all the little things but they all come together in the end."