Event now in its third year, draws hundreds
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Charlie’s Pizza in Little Falls will be providing a warm place, a hot meal, Christmas fun and fellowship for the third year, Christmas Day.
“I’d like to do it every week,” said Charlie Peterka, owner of Charlie’s Pizza. “This is more of a community meal than something that just Charlie’s Pizza is doing.”
In 2011, fewer than 100 people were served. That grew to an amazing 400 people in 2012. Peterka is expecting a big crowd again this year.
“We’re hoping it will be even bigger,” he said. “It’s not need-based. It’s for anybody who finds Christmas lonely.”
Food, toys and other gifts are donated by members of the community. Last year, a bicycle was donated to be raffled. This year, two bicycles have been donated already.
“They are so generous at Hardware Hank,” Peterka said. “They go above and beyond in Little Falls.”
Numerous gifts have already appeared at Charlie’s Pizza in preparation for the holiday. There are dozens of teddy bears, footballs and basketballs.
“All the kids leave with something,” said Peterka.
Peterka credits members of the community who help with the event.
“Donna Hilmerson came to help. Supt. Steve Jones brought his whole family,” said Peterka.
He emphasizes that Little Falls is a great community that comes together to support one another.
“When there’s a wedding or a funeral in town, people are there for each other,” he said.
The Jones family had a very meaningful Christmas celebration at Charlie’s.
“My kids said it was the best Christmas they ever had,” said Steve Jones. “The opportunity to go out and be with people on Christmas and be able to greet and welcome them and serve them was huge.”
Jones and his wife, Kristin, and their son, Noah, and daughter, Hannah, plan to be part of the event again this year.
“They are excited to do it again this year — how much better does it get than that?” Jones said. “We’re honored to work there and so impressed with Charlie and his staff for selflessly doing this, carrying the spirit of Christmas forward. The opportunity to be a small piece of that is fantastic.”
“We look forward to it all year,” said Candace Peterka, Charlie’s wife.
Mitch Beattie, one of the cooks at Charlie’s, loves seeing the people come in.
“It’s putting a smile on people’s faces,” he said.
The event features live music. Homemade soup, garlic bread and pizza will be served, as well as pop and milk, cookies and ice cream.
Charlie’s Pizza will be open from 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Christmas Day. It is located at 1006 Haven Road in Little Falls.
“There are a lot of people in the community who don’t have anything else to do on Christmas. You should just see the people when they leave; it’s really neat,” Peterka said. “After Santa is done with them and they are full of food, they just have a gleam about them.”