By David F. Rooney
Having just completed its 15th year, the Community Christmas Dinner is a tradition that not only has staying power but demonstrates the strength of community values in Revelstoke.
“It’s 15 years,” said organizer Ginger Shoji as she took a brief break during the dinner at the Frontier Family Restaurant. “The first Community Christmas Dinner we had was at the United Church and 27 people showed up. They went home with most of the turkey and now… it has gone forward so much that without Matt (Singh, owner of the Frontier Family Restaurant) I would be unable to put this on.”
For Singh who has volunteered his restaurant for the last five or six years, the dinner “says a lot about Revelstoke” and the months of work by volunteers who drum up the food and cash donated by businesses throughout the city.
“The nice thing is people are happy to donate in any way they can,” Shoji said.
“This is the best thing I can do at Christmas,” said volunteer Doug Hamilton. “I don’t have any family and I like to help out.”
The typical Christmas Dinner features turkey, ham, vegetables, mashed potatoes, rolls, salads and desserts. And it draws many, many more people now than it did back in 1994. There were easily 50 people in the restaurant 30 minutes after the food was laid out at 1 p.m. with the prospect of more coming before long. Then there were the meals delivered to people who were, for one reason or another, unable to make it to the restaurant.
Most of the people who attend this heart-warming event are local residents, often single men and women who would otherwise be alone on Christmas Day. Others are young families or single moms and for them it offers a chance to mingle with others and enjoy a great meal they might otherwise not be able to afford. It even welcomes travellers on the Trans-Canada Highway who stop at the restaurant hoping to purchase a meal. In fact, my interview with Shoji and Singh was briefly interrupted by a family travelling East from Vernon. They almost turned around and left when they realized they couldn’t actually buy a meal.
“Come on in,” Shoji said. “This is a community event and everyone is welcome.”
And stay they did, enjoying — like everyone there — a moment of community and sharing at a time of year that can sometimes be very difficult.