Susan Menino gives a coloring set to a child during the annual Christmas Gift event at St. Peter's Teen Center in Dorchester Dec. 24.
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DORCHESTER -- Children sat next to a large pile of presents and listened to Cardinal Seán O'Malley as he kicked off the annual Christmas Gift event, held at St. Peter's Teen Center in Dorchester, Dec. 24, by speaking about Christmas and the spirit of giving.
"We pray that Christmas will be a time of peace in our own hearts, peace in our community, and peace in the world," said the cardinal in a short speech.
"Let us pray especially for all of those who at Christmas in some way are suffering, who are far from their loved ones, who are in want, so that the care of the community will reach out to them and help them define the join of God's love in this Christmas," he continued.
Established by the late Mayor Thomas Menino over 20 years ago and sponsored through a combined effort from the Menino family, Catholic Charities and the Dorchester Tri-Parishes, the Christmas Gift event provides needy children and families with presents for the holidays.
Members of the Menino family helped pass out the presents to eager children at the event, while other volunteers manned tables topped with free food.
Paulo Amado De Barros, the director of the Teen Center, told The Pilot that "close to 600 kids" were expected to receive presents through the event, and each child would receive two or three gifts.
"[Families] make a wish list... whatever they put there, we try to make it happen for them." he said.
The teen center, which is run by Catholic Charities, serves around 300 youth in grades 7-12 who regularly access the center on an annual basis, said organizes on the center's website.
It provides a safe haven for adolescents living in Dorchester's most troubled areas, both during the summer and during the afterschool hours, by giving them access to tutors, councilors, and activities designed to increase their self-esteem.