There’s a group of Sidney volunteers and sponsors who have, for the last 13 years, given people who might otherwise be alone for the holiday, a place to enjoy a little Christmas cheer.
While many Canadians are gathered around the Christmas tree, all warm and snuggly at home, these volunteers are keeping warm over an oven, cooking dozens of turkeys and all the fixings for a community Christmas dinner.
The Peninsula Christmas Dinner Committee has, since 1999, sacrificed its Christmas Day to serve dinner to folks who might not otherwise have a place to go, or are spending the holiday alone. Last December, the group of dedicated volunteers estimated they would be serving dinner to 200-plus people at the Mary Winspear Centre.
“There are a lot of people who are alone, or don’t have any family,” said Committee spokesperson Wendy Warshawski. “They all have a story to tell and we invite them to Christmas dinner.”
While the dinner itself last only a few hours in the middle of the day, preparation of the meals takes a lot longer, starting the night before and into the early morning hours of December 25.
And what’s more, the organization of the location, food, sponsors, entertainment and volunteers occurs throughout the year. The Committee event gets help from other service groups — like the Sidney Lions Club — to ensure anyone who wants to come to dinner, can.
“The dinner itself is for anyone who is in need of some fellowship or company at Christmas,” Warshawski said.
The dinner started in 1999 as part of the Silver Threads local group — it was then a simple summer dinner that expanded to Christmas for people on the peninsula — and as far away as the Gulf Islands — who are alone.
Since then, organizers have opened their doors to include anyone who wishes to come out. The event is one of fellowship and companionship and the coming together at Christmas of the people and businesses that make the event happen each year.
The meal is free to the entire community — especially those who might not be able to get to see family, those who have no family or those otherwise alone. The committee, added Warshawski, collects donations at the event and at the Beacon Avenue Scotiabank, to keep the dinner running.
The Committee numbers some 35 to 40 volunteers, some of whom are out serving people. Others organize the day, while more are in the kitchen cooking the Christmas dinners. Most volunteers are unsung, but their efforts are noticed in the overall spirit of the event.