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Benji's Caf and Bakery to host free Christmas dinner for those in need

PLATTSBURGH - When Harold G. and Betty A. Benjamin look out the window of their Margaret Street business, they see a growing number of people who either live on the streets or who need assistance in some form or another. And, they're planning to do something to help.

Their business, Benji's Caf and Bakery, will open its doors Sunday, Dec. 20, for a free Christmas dinner. The idea behind the dinner is to help less fortunate members of the community by giving them a warm meal and some companionship for at least one day, said the Benjamins.

"We were talking about doing this last year but we were still a pretty new business, and we just ran out of time," said Betty. "This year, we've started a little earlier."

The Benjamins discussed the idea of hosting a dinner after Harold started noticing the number of people downtown who didn't seem as well off as others.

"During the day, you look out front and you see there's a lot of people who are homeless or who maybe just don't have a lot of money," said Harold. "They're going through garbage cans and, especially in the winter, they don't have seasonal clothes like a heavy jacket or even a sweater."

"It's sad," said Betty.

Even with the number of outreach programs in the area, the Benjamins said they have still seen people sleeping in the nearby park or under bridges. And, they've seen first-hand the difference one random act of kindness can do, said Betty.

"One day, not long after we first opened, a man came to the door after we had closed," recalled Betty. "He told me he didn't have much money but he wanted to know what he could get with the change he had."

Noticing the man was "obviously very hungry," she said, Betty told Harold about the man at the door and Harold put some fresh sandwiches and chips in a container for him.

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