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Annual Christmas feast a labour of love for many

New Life Baptist Church’s Marita Judson, Janie McAulay, Henry Wikkerink pose with two of the turkeys and a ham that’s already been donated to the church’s annual Christmas dinner for the less fortunate. - Ashley Degraaf
New Life Baptist Church’s Marita Judson, Janie McAulay, Henry Wikkerink pose with two of the turkeys and a ham that’s already been donated to the church’s annual Christmas dinner for the less fortunate.
— image credit: Ashley Degraaf

A gravy-soaked mountain of mashed potatoes, savory smell of herbs and stuffing, and a mouth-watering slab of turkey waiting to be devoured.

It’s what most folks anticipate most at Christmas time.

But unfortunately not everyone can afford to cook a turkey dinner with all the fixings or has someone to share a dinner with. That’s why for 10 years New Life Baptist church has been staging its Christmas dinner for those less fortunate.

And it’s a true community gathering, says first-time co-ordinator Janie McAulay.

The event takes place at the Si’em Lelum Gymnasium on Christmas day between 11 and 1 p.m.

“It started with New Life Church and Howie George about 10 years ago and New Life has partnered with him since, but really we’re just the facilitators,” said McAulay, noting feeding 450 folks in that one sitting isn’t doable without the help of volunteers to prepare, cook, transport and serve the grub.

“Howie has been so generous over the years and people in the community are all so generous it just amazes me.

“It’s very much a community event. We have people volunteering from all over, to do all sorts of things — cooking, serving, and donating food is also very important.”

Every year organizers ask for food donations so they’re able to create a traditional Christmas plate.  Items they collect include turkeys, hams, potatoes, stuffing, veggies, and buns.

“Anything really that can make up a great Christmas dinner,” said McAulay. “We’ve already had one gentleman donate to us seven hams as well as some gift cards.”

They often see the same volunteers lend a hand each year, but are always looking for more folks to join the team.

“This dinner isn’t just for people who are financially strapped, it’s also for folks who are lonely and don’t have anyone to share Christmas with,” said McAulay. “I’m finding a lot of people volunteering because they want to be with people that day.”

Organizers also collect donations of grocery store gift cards (to purchase food for the dinner, as well as to hand out to folks in need), as well as hygiene and baby care items.

Anyone interested in donating the above items can drop them off at New Life Baptist church and hygiene and baby care items can also be brought by the Margaret Moss Health Unit as well.

Folks interested in donating food items or volunteering should give McAulay a shout first at 250-748-7304.

The doors of the gymnasium open at 10:30 a.m. Christmas day.

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