Montreal family gives back with Italian-style Christmas Eve lunch at Chez Doris
Christmas can be a lonely season for those living on Montreal’s streets, but dozens of homeless women were treated to a full Italian-style lunch on Monday.
The meal, which fed up to 100 women, came courtesy of Vito Illuzzi, a local real estate broker and businessman, and his family, who spent much of Sunday preparing the food.
The idea to spend Christmas Eve feeding the homeless came to Illuzzi last year, when he brought leftovers to the Old Brewery Mission. He realized just how needed a hot meal was for those less fortunate.
“We have an abundance of food every year. Being a bit Italian family, we tend to feast a lot,” he said. “At the end of each meal, we usually go home with trays of food, but we don’t always use it, sometimes food gets thrown away. We felt we should have given the food instead of keeping the food. It was a spur of the moment thing.”
It was the first event of its kind for Chez Doris. The organization’s executive director, Marina Boulos-Winton, said Christmas can be a tough time, with many women spending Christmas alone and others being chronically homeless with nowhere to go.
“It’s a real treat to have an Italian-style meal,” she said. “There’s probably going to be a variety of as many as 10 different foods. It’s really special… It’s important for the women who are alone and homeless to have somewhere to go during the day so they’re safe and not vulnerable to predators.”
While Chez Doris will be closed for Christmas Day and Dec. 26, the organization does give their clients gift cards to movie theatres and 24-hour restaurants to help them stay safe and warm. Still, she said there is a need for donations of winter boots, warm mittens and funds to help keep Chez Doris running.
The meal was sponsored by several donors, and Illuzzi was accompanied by his wife, children, brother and sister-in-law, cousins and friends. He said he hopes his children take away a valuable lesson.
“I hope one day they appreciate everything they have and don’t take it for granted,” he said. “They’re well-deserving people. Sometimes they just fall through the cracks and we hear their stories. We feel blessed and privileged and we just wanted to give back.”