Second-year event growing to include more of the community
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
On the spur of the moment, Charlie’s Pizza owner Charlie Peterka decided last year to serve free pizza to community residents on Christmas Day.
“There was not a lot of planning,” Peterka said. “I thought maybe 80 – 100 people might be there.”
Nevertheless, more than 250 people came out to celebrate at Charlie’s.
“My mom and sisters baked cookies and made the soups,” Peterka said. “The whole family waited on people. They were like whirling dervishes; they watched the oven, and made sure everyone’s plate was full. They poured pop and cleaned up afterward. Santa unexpectedly came out of nowhere.”
Holidays can be challenging for many people, and Peterka wanted to provide a gathering place for people who would otherwise be alone on Christmas.
“My daughter died five years ago and that makes the holidays hard,” he said. “This was a way of honoring her and honoring my parents.”
A couple of months before his daughter died, she told Peterka that she didn’t want any gifts for Christmas, that he should just sponsor a couple of children overseas. He takes some of his inspiration from that.
Peterka grew up in St. Cloud as part of a large, loving family. His parents still live in the same house where they moved in 1967.
“Instead of buying a huge house or a yacht or going on vacations, they are very giving,” Peterka said. “They gave us a good start in life and continue to give. Every one of my seven siblings and my parents contribute to this event, and it’s been passed down to the grandkids.”
The community of Little Falls has also joined Peterka to support the event.
“People and businesses have called to donate homemade food and gifts,” he said. “They want to be there to help out.”
Homemade soup and garlic bread will be served, in addition to pizza. There will be pop and milk, cookies and ice cream. Gifts will be provided for the children, and a shiny, brand new donated bicycle will be raffled.
After 30 years, this is still a good, solid place to hang out,” Peterka said. “It’s almost iconic.”
Charlie’s Pizza will be open from 11:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Christmas Day. It is located at 1006 Haven Road in Little Falls.
“It’s all about fellowship and camaraderie and not being alone on Christmas. I’m just the vehicle,” he said. “I just want people to know that we’re open and to come in for a couple hours and have a good Christmas Day.”