By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
STEVENSVILLE — Tosi’s Restaurant opened earlier than what it’s accustomed to on Saturday.
General manager Dan McCrery and his staff concluded their 54th year of holding free Christmas dinners for local children who might not get a Christmas of their own.
“For a lot of these kids, this is the only Christmas they will have,” McCrery said. “It’s a long-standing tradition with the restaurant.”
McCrery said four generations of his family have been doing this now, which included his sons, who pitched in to help serve food Saturday.
From ages 1 to 15, children from across the Twin Cities area flocked to the Stevensville restaurant. On the menu was fried chicken, spaghetti and fries along with cookies and ice cream. Some 450 pieces of chicken were provided by Gordon Food Service, McCrery said.
Assistant manager Amy Paulin, McCrery’s sister-in-law, said she has been taking part in this family tradition for 28 years.
“It’s family. My mom owns the restaurant and my dad used to be Santa every year,” Paulin said. “He passed away in 2006, so we keep doing it. He loved doing it. We’re honored that we can do this for these kids. It’s something nice to do during the holidays.”
Afterward, more than 100 children met Santa – who was being portrayed by Tim Bammann of Di Pisa’s Pizza in Stevensville.
Upon lining up to meet him, each child was given a present to unwrap. Paulin said the Salvation Army drops the gifts off the day before, which the staff keeps in the back until Saturday. The donated gifts come pre-wrapped and are labeled to determine if the gift is meant for a boy or a girl as well as what age range.
Kyle Corzine, 8, of Benton Harbor said he has been to the Tosi’s event in the past. It’s something he looks forward to each year.
“My favorite part is getting presents from Santa,” Corzine said. “Last year I got Legos and a (toy) car.”
Damaria Harris, 10, said she has been coming for the free holiday dinner for the last two years. While she does appreciate the gifts the Salvation Army gives away, the Benton Harbor resident said the food is great.
“It’s really good,” she said. “The fries are my favorite.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 13, 2015)