AMHERST – The Amherst Community Christmas Dinner welcomes everyone. And since the first year it was held – this is year six – the number of residents celebrating the holiday at the event has grown from a few dozen to a dozen dozens or more.
“Christmas day can be a really lonely day of the year,” said Betsy Prager, a member of the committee that hosts the event.
The free meal draws a lot of seniors, but there are a variety of reasons why someone might want to share the company of their neighbours on Dec. 25. It’s being held at the Bridge Adult Service Centre – which donates the space – and will feature live, local music. The dinner runs from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. They have food to feed 250.
“The community has been wonderfully generous…,” said Prager.
Private citizens have donated and so have corporations. The list of donors is too long to list here, but ranges from Big 8 Pop to E.P. MacEachern Dentistry, and from Highland Market to the Town of Amherst.
The generosity doesn’t stop when the meal begins. The meal is free, but those attending are welcome to make a cash donation. Last year they collected $600.
“They feel they want to give something,” said the organizer.
The community dinner is run by an independent committee of volunteers. They start planning in September. The meal they prepare includes nine massive turkeys (weighing 30-plus pounds), as well as dressing, potatoes, vegetables, rolls and cranberries. Dessert is donated. Bambinos donates the use of their pizza ovens to cook the turkeys.
An event like the dinner can’t happen without volunteers. About 30 people helped last year.
Leftovers are typically passed out to first responders working the holiday, as well as hospital staff.