BRATTLEBORO—The generous spirit of Charlie Slate, who died in 2008, lives on through the annual Christmas Breakfast he founded in 1982.
His family is preparing for this year’s edition of the Charlie Slate Memorial Christmas Breakfast at American Legion Post 5 on Linden Street.
As his granddaughter, Jadi Flynn, tells the story, on Christmas Day 1981, Slate dropped off his wife at work. He then drove around town looking for someplace to eat, and realized there was nowhere to go.
The very next year he began serving a free breakfast to the community on Christmas morning. Flynn said he did this as a “pay-it-forward” to the community for help he received when he was out of work due to an accident years before.
He served 50 people the first year, funding the breakfast himself. But Flynn said the breakfast has grown significantly since that first gathering at the Elks Home on Putney Road.
“In 2015, we served 742 free meals, including deliveries to our community,” she said. “We delivered over 250 meals to our local fire, rescue, hospital personnel, to all our elderly facilities, and everyone in the Brattleboro area who called asking for a delivery.
“We’re serving meals to travelers that have no place to eat, to families that have made this a yearly tradition, to the lonely just looking for some companionship, and to the homeless needing warm shelter and a hearty meal on Christmas Day.”
On the menu are pancakes with real maple syrup donated from local producers, eggs, sausages, and hash browns, and fruit, with coffee and juice to wash it all down.
Flynn now runs the breakfast, with the help of a team of about 60 volunteers. This includes a lot of the extended Slate family, plus people from the Brattleboro area who offer their time and expertise to prepare, serve, and deliver the free breakfast.
“Without them, none of this would be possible,” she said. “We even have a waiting list of volunteers. Having enough help is one thing I don’t have to worry about.”
It also takes a lot of organization to feed more than 600 people, and Flynn said she has spreadsheets for the inventory needed for the breakfast and timelines and checklists of what needs to be done when.
“It helps that I’m super organized, but we wanted to make sure we had all this on paper, so it can be passed along to the next person running the breakfast,” Flynn said.
That next person would be her daughter, Megan Walker, who Flynn said is also learning the organization process with an eye toward running it sometime in the future.
Donations from the community and local businesses enable the Slate family to continue the tradition of free breakfast to the community.
“We plan to continue to keep my grandfather’s tradition alive, as long as it remains self-supporting,” Flynn said. “The donations that some people offer for their breakfasts help to pay a lot of the costs.”
Another tradition at the breakfast is the homemade cookies for the dining guests. Flynn said they received enough cookie donations last year that they were able to send out the treats with the deliveries to hospital and emergency services personnel in town.
Flynn said she loves being part of what has become a community tradition in Brattleboro.
“It’s nice to see some of the same faces every year, and seeing the community come together for breakfast,” she said.