For neediest families, a holiday party Pomerleau style - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

For neediest families, a holiday party Pomerleau style

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

"It was always a lot of fun. It was a great way to dress up and have a fancy party -- something that we usually didn't get to go to, big fancy events," said Ann Cunningham.  

Cunningham, a native of Burlington, says as a girl her parents would take her to the annual Pomerleau Holiday Dinner for families in the community. And now, for the 33rd annual event she is continuing the tradition and bringing her daughter.

"Well it makes me feel happy. And plus this big place -- it's an honor to be here," said nine year old Emily Cunningham.

The mother and daughter were among hundreds of families invited to the event in Burlington on Sunday morning. Although Santa Claus was there, the biggest gift came from Tony Pomerleau, the man who has funded this event for more than three decades. At 96, the successful businessman says he has been fortunate over the years and wants to spread the holiday cheer.

With help from 50 volunteers, the Burlington Recreation department organizes the day of festivities. "So we work with all the non-profits in town and what they do is they give us the list of families that really could use an additional boost for the holidays," said Recreation Department Superintendent Maggie Leugers.

"What I enjoy seeing is the kids and how happy they are. And the great range of activities that they are able to enjoy this morning," said Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger.

And this year, more than 500 people showed up for the holiday party, where plenty of activities could get anyone in the holiday spirit. The free event included a catered dinner, Santa's workshop with gifts for the kids, face painting and more.

"It feels really good to know that there's people out there that do care -- it feels really really good," said Chauntel Barcomb of Burlington.

Barcomb says this is the first year she has brought her two kids to the dinner, but says that times are tough and they wouldn't have been able to celebrate like this on their own. Organizers say over the years they have seen an increase in families who could use the extra help during the holidays. "We are seeing families that are starting to come and I don't know if that will change in the future, but we have more families and families that we haven't seen before, so that really is a change over the last couple years," Leugers said.

As more families look for ways to make ends meet this holiday tradition gives everyone something to celebrate.

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