Seventy pounds of turkey, nine pumpkin pies and trays loaded with stuffing were only a few of the ingredients in the recipe coming together in the kitchen of Sheila’s Bistro & Lounge Tuesday.
As plates were carefully set for dozens of guests who would feast on the fixings that evening, restaurant owner Sheila Cox explained the effort is simply about being a part of the community.
“We all have time to give,” Cox said. “It takes a little bit of time to do something nice for somebody else.”
Guests were all clients of Sources White Rock South Surrey Food Bank – individuals, couples and families alike – for whom the dinner may be the only holiday feast they experience this season.
Food bank manager Jaye Murray said that is often the case for singles who rely on the facility, which sees on average, just over 600 people every week.
“Quite often, it’s the single people that are sort of left out (of holiday celebrations),” Murray said.
“They quite often don’t have anywhere to go.”
The dinner at Sheila’s, she added, was the only one on the Semiahmoo Peninsula specifically targeted to the food bank’s clients. Attendees included couples and a family of eight.
“The people that go really appreciate it,” Murray said.
Other charitable dinners on the menu this season include First United Church’s 35th annual Christmas Day Dinner, which typically hosts 350 people; and at Grace Point Church, where dinners are hosted every Sunday, year-round.
Cox, a South Surrey resident and former chef at White Rock’s recently closed Cielo’s Restaurant, said the idea for her dinner is not new. She participated in a similar event at the waterfront eatery that was also well-received.
She and her husband knew when they opened in the Grandview Corners neighbourhood in 2014 that they wanted to revive the tradition, but the business was too new to pull it off last year.
This year, they closed the restaurant early, staff volunteered their time, and family members helped serve. As well, local businesses and regular customers pitched in, donating everything from cash and gourmet breads to cream.
Cox said her cost of hosting the dinner “doesn’t matter.”
“It’s worth it. Who knows where any of us will be next year? It’s one day, it’s one afternoon out of our lives. We all have that to spare.”