Server Alex Schopf delivers the turkey and trimmings to guests at Friday’s Christmas dinner.

THIS IS THE LIFE: Christmas feast came early for local diners

Some 120 seniors and guests enjoyed an early Christmas dinner at Sheila’s Bistro in South Surrey Friday.

A donated turkey dinner with all the trimmings for some 120 seniors and guests at Sheila’s Bistro in South Surrey Friday was a natural for owners Sheila and Batty Cox.

Not only do the restaurateurs like to organize “some kind of give-back” every Christmas, Sheila said – last year they had a dinner event for the Sources food bank – but Batty’s sister, Andrea Cox, just happens to be the director of community support programs for the Peninsula-based Seniors Come Share Society.

“Andrea has the connections,” Sheila said during a short break just before serving the first seating Friday afternoon.

“We thought this would be an effective way to give back to the community and bring some joy to people.”

“They approached me to get in touch with our senior clients,” Andrea said, adding the event “snowballed” from there.

“I used to work in the restaurant industry, so I didn’t have any trouble finding people. We started out with one seating of 60, but it quickly became two seatings – 120 people.”

The eager response came from a combination of clients in the meal program at the Kent Street Activity Centre, residents in Sunnyside Villas and others from seniors programs in the general community.

“Most of the seniors here wouldn’t have a Christmas dinner, because they live alone and don’t get out that often,” Andrea said.

As the first platefuls of food were handed out by regular servers and spouses and offspring – all of whom volunteered for the event – participants raised glasses and entered into the party atmosphere, singing along to Christmas carols from an impromptu chorus of staff children.

All participants got to take home decorative arrangements contributed by the White Rock Gardening Club, while the event was generously supported by donations from suppliers and other local businesses, and other restaurants – including White Spot, Montana’s, Famoso Pizza, Original Joe’s, Cosmos and Kiki’s – all contributed gift certificates for the guests.

The show of support from other members of the local business community was heartening, said Batty, who emphasized that, in spite of much-publicized problems with city road crews blocking access to their 160 Street restaurant earlier this year, they have no plans to move the bistro.

Dinner participant Bill Auger, a Sunnyside Villas resident active in volunteering to help seniors, said the bistro’s generous gesture in providing the dinner was “incredible.”

“For them to come out and do this for everybody – I think it’s fantastic. I wish there was some way we could come back and support their business.

“I’m lucky – I still have mobility. But there’s a lot of people here who would (otherwise) have spent the holiday watching television.”

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