Post Cmdr. Michell Keil presents Dennis Labonte with a certificate of appreciation.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass.— American Legion Post 125 held a special celebration last week to honor Dennis Labonte, who after 38 years of cooking the annual Be Our Guest Dinner is passing on his duties to a new generation
"We have some good people here to come and take over, and I know they will do a great job," Labonte said.
The Be Our Guest Dinner is a free dinner Post 125 hosts every Dec. 25 for veterans and community members together who may not have a place to go on Christmas Day.
During the ceremony, Labonte ritualistically handed over his trusty spatula to Brittany Lillie and her fiance, CJ Hazel. Both have worked extensively in the food industry.
Lillie, past commander Dennis St. Pierre's granddaughter, has been around the community dinner her entire life.
"Every Christmas before we went to see our families we would always come here first to see Dennis," Lillie said. "This will be a different side of such an important tradition."
Hazel, a man of few words, already had his mind on the menu.
"Ham, glazed carrots, stuffing, mashed potatoes," Hazel said aloud running through a mental list as he scoped out the kitchen.
Lillie said Hazel will do the lion's share of the cooking and she plans to take on more of a "sidekick" role.
Commander Mitch Keil gave Labonte a certificate of appreciation as well as a spatula adorned with a plaque noting his service to the community.
Keil said Labonte has been cooking up Christmas dinner since 1955.
"We want to thank you for your dedication and honor you," he said.
Labonte didn't deny he was getting older and that spending so many hours on his feet just wasn't possible anymore. He was thankful for the support he had received in the kitchen over the years and was happy to be able to feed so many people in the community.
And after giving up his Christmas Day for so many years to volunteer, Labonte still plans to dine at the Legion this holiday to lend a hand.
"I will miss the people," he said. "But I will still be here on Christmas Day."
Dinner will be served at the post home, 91 American Legion Drive, from noon to 2 on Christmas Day. Meals can also be delivered throughout North Adams, Adams, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Williamstown. Volunteers will also deliver to Pownal, Readsboro, and Stamford in Vermont.
Delivery and takeout is available between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The post is currently taking orders via phone 413-664-9004. Volunteers are always welcome.
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