PHOTOS: Holiday joy abounds at 20th annual Sidney Community Christmas Dinner

Vern England has been Santa Claus for the Sidney Community Christmas dinner for the last five years. He says his favourite part of the seasonal job is bringing smiles to little ones. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Vern England has been Santa Claus for the Sidney Community Christmas dinner for the last five years. He says his favourite part of the seasonal job is bringing smiles to little ones. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Makayla Paul-Belcourt, 3, sits with Santa Claus (Vern England) at the Sidney Community Christmas Dinner Dec. 25. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Makayla Paul-Belcourt, 3, sits with Santa Claus (Vern England) at the Sidney Community Christmas Dinner Dec. 25. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and holiday tunes by local musicians. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and holiday tunes by local musicians. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and some holiday tunes by local musicians, including a ukulele group and the Sunshine Singers. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and some holiday tunes by local musicians, including a ukulele group and the Sunshine Singers. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Lloid and Ronald Harry enjoyed a Christmas lunch with family and friends at the Mary Winspear Centre Dec. 25 during the 20th annual Sidney Community Christmas Dinner. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Lloid and Ronald Harry enjoyed a Christmas lunch with family and friends at the Mary Winspear Centre Dec. 25 during the 20th annual Sidney Community Christmas Dinner. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and some holiday tunes by local musicians, including a ukulele group and the Sunshine Singers. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and some holiday tunes by local musicians, including a ukulele group and the Sunshine Singers. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Ghandi Clandfield and Alyssa Richards donned their best green and red for the 20th annual Sidney Community Christmas Dinner at the Mary Winspear Centre Dec. 25 (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Ghandi Clandfield and Alyssa Richards donned their best green and red for the 20th annual Sidney Community Christmas Dinner at the Mary Winspear Centre Dec. 25 (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and some holiday tunes by local musicians, including a ukulele group and the Sunshine Singers. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and some holiday tunes by local musicians, including a ukulele group and the Sunshine Singers. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and some holiday tunes by local musicians, including a ukulele group and the Sunshine Singers. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and some holiday tunes by local musicians, including a ukulele group and the Sunshine Singers. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Smiling faces, full stomachs and holiday joy filled the Mary Winspear Centre on Christmas Day during the 20th annual Sidney Community Christmas Dinner.

Sidney residents and visitors alike were welcomed to the dinner of turkey with all the trimmings followed by dessert. Two sittings – one at 11:30 a.m. and one at 1:15 p.m. – fed more than 300 thanks to donations from Fairway Market, Save-on-Foods and Thrifty Foods in Sidney, among others.

“So many people come back year after year,” says volunteer coordinator Wendy Warshawski. “It’s like seeing old friends once a year for Christmas.”

RELATED: Sidney’s Community Christmas Dinner celebrates 20th anniversary this year

In 2001 Warshawski joined the task force that puts on the dinner. She says back then, the event was advertised as “a dinner for people who would otherwise be alone.”

That’s still true, she says, but the event also draws families, couples, and all kinds of people.

“Everybody has a story. Some of them are alone and they might feel awkward about coming to a dinner like this, but once they hear that [there is so many], they’re happy to come,” Warshawski says. “We get families, seniors [and] every age you could imagine. Sometimes it’s couples that just don’t want to cook a big turkey.”

The Vancouver Island Regional Library donated more than 400 Sidney/North Saanich branch library cards for this year’s attendees, and community donations of toys and stuffed animals delighted all ages.

Seated as they come in, tables are a mix of people, some filled with strangers. But with hearty meals, festive songs and visits from the event’s long-time Santa Claus, Vern England, the Mary Winspear Centre spent Christmas playing host to one big happy Yuletide family.

RELATED: Flurry of Yuletide activities coming to Sidney



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

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