NEWPORT CITY â€“ Hundreds of local families enjoyed a meal fit for a king at the traditional Tony Pomerleau Christmas Party, held at the East Side Restaurant Saturday. Pomerleau, a Burlington real-estate developer and Newport native, pays for the meal in Newport as well as one in Burlington as his way of giving back to the community.
Besides the meal, the children received a free present, had their photo taken with Santa Claus and had an opportunity to wrap Christmas ornaments to give to family members.
Prior to the meal, Newport City Council President John Wilson thanked everyone involved with the meal, especially Pomerleau.
Pomerleau said to the crowd, â€śIâ€™m really Santa Claus; I just donâ€™t wear my suit.â€ť
Pomerleau said heâ€™s real happy to sponsor the annual parties that he wants to happen for years to come. He also has high praise for everyone who volunteered at the event.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who attended the meal, thanked Pomerleau for his generosity in putting on the annual event. Sanders also thanked all of the volunteers.
â€śWe know these are tough times for many families,â€ť Sanders said. â€śSome of us in Washington do understand that and weâ€™re going to do the best we can to make sure programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program are not cut, because we know many people in Vermont and around this country need those programs.â€ť
After his presentation, Sanders said Pomerleau is one of the most generous people in the state, and people are not even aware of all that Pomerleau does. Sanders also said Pomerleau has not forgotten where he came from.
Sanders said many people canâ€™t afford to take their families out for a holiday dinner.
Michelle Rossi of North Troy, who attended the dinner, said she has lived in the region many years and is aware there is a lot of poverty here. Rossi agreed that, for some of the families, Saturdayâ€™s meal would be the only time they will get together and have a nice dinner.
For Jennifer Messier of Newport City, the dinner meant she and her family could have some fun and her daughter, Zoey, could see Santa Claus, enjoy a sit down meal and be with children her own age.
â€śSheâ€™s been looking forward to this for weeks,â€ť said Messier.
â€śI think this is a good program for people who donâ€™t have a lot of money,â€ť said Toni Mansur of Newport.
â€śThis is awesome to see all these people together,â€ť added Jason Brooks of Newport.
Pomerleau will hold a similar party for the Burlington area families this coming weekend. In addition, Pomerleau has plans to hold a large event later this year for members of the Vermont National Guard and their families.