A White Rock tradition for more than 30 years, the Community Christmas Day Dinner returns to First United Church (at Centre St. and Buena Vista Ave.) on Dec. 25 (starting at 11:30 a.m.).
For those alone, or those who want to share the warmth of the season, it’s a chance to get together with friends and strangers alike and celebrate Christmas with a turkey dinner, a sing-a-long and photos with Santa.
The reserved-seating event is fully funded by the community – as was illustrated Dec. 8 when the Royal Canadian Legion Crescent Branch 240 Auxiliary held their annual Christmas dinner for regional veterans.
Leslie Maudsley – who is supervising chef for both the Legion event and the Christmas Day dinner, presented organizers Chip Barrett and Rev. Joan McMurtry of First United with a cheque for $1,000 toward the White Rock event on behalf of the Auxiliary (also receiving cheques were Norm Stork who accepted $1,000 on behalf of Gracepoint Community Church’s weekly dinner program and Brian McMurdo who accepted $1,500 donated for survival suits for the Semiahmoo Peninsula Marine Rescue Society).
“We try in the (Christmas Day) dinner to create a place of community,” McMurty told the crowd while thanking the auxiliary. “When people leave there, they know they’re part of something bigger than themselves.”
“It’s a privilege to help on Christmas Day – not a burden,” Barrett added.
“We have 60-plus volunteers on the day for serving, clean up and dinner and they look forward to it, as do I. You have our heartfelt thanks for thinking of us.”
Following the presentation, Maudsley acknowledged the dinner organization has become a well-oiled machine by this point – and played down her own contribution.
“I go with the flow,” she quipped, adding: “They call and tell me a week before that 190 people are coming and I add 75 on top of that.”
Fastest time for serving the dinner is 11 minutes, Maudsley said.
“But it’s never gone more than 20 minutes,” she added.
The feast itself requires some 12 to 14 25-pound turkeys, but cooking starts three days before with preparation of minced pies, she said, adding that long-time volunteers, like Coun. Mary-Wade Anderson, are an invaluable help in peeling potatoes.
“I have some volunteers who started coming with their families when they were 14 years old, and they’ve got their own families now, but they still come in.”
Carrying on the tradition established by dinner co-founder the late George Bryant, Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg will once again don the red suit of Santa, while White Rock Youth Ambassadors will welcome and help serve attendees.
Piano accompaniment for the meal and singing will be provided again by Christine Dibble, who successfully brought her background in music therapy to the event for the first time last year.
McMurtry noted that new volunteers are also being welcomed this year, following an appeal to the community.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to give of themselves that day.”
Those attending don’t have to fit any profile other than wanting to get together with others on Christmas Day, she said.
“It’s for people who are on their own – it’s not about people being poor, and they don’t have to be old. A healthy community is about looking after each other as a community, saying you don’t have to be lonely or alone.”
It’s reserved seating only – and reservations and requests for rides must be received by Sources Community Resource Centre, at 604-542-4357 by Wednesday, Dec. 21.