Unless a new group or organization comes forward to take over, it’s possible this year’s community Christmas dinner could be the last. The 10-member organizing committee is now down to three or four because of health reasons. The dinner serves, on average, 250 meals at the Bridge Workshop on Christmas Day along with more than a hundred that are sent out to workers at the hospital, fire and police departments.
AMHERST – An Amherst Christmas tradition could be in jeopardy.
While this year’s community Christmas dinner is expected to proceed, future dinners may not occur unless an organization comes forward to take it over.
“When we started this dinner 10 years ago there were 10 of us in the core group that organized it. Now, because of health issues, our group is getting smaller and we’ve reached the point where we don’t think we can continue beyond this year,” Betsy Prager said. “We’re getting older and we’re getting tired. We want to pass the torch on to someone else.”
The first community Christmas dinner was held 11 years ago when Bev Fynn, the wife of an Amherst physician, organized the first event at the Amherst Fire Department. The group, led by Prager, got involved 10 years ago and has seen the event grow and move to a new venue at the Bridge Workshop Adult Service Centre.
In that time the dinner has taken on more of a community theme with numerous volunteers coming out for a couple of hours on Christmas Day to make sure everyone in the community has a Christmas dinner with all the fixings.
Within the last year, two members of the group have faced serious, life-threatening health issues. Prager said the group of 10 is now only three or four.
While individual volunteers are welcome to help with this year’s dinner, Prager said the ideal solution is for a community group or organization to take over planning future dinners. She said it would be good if an interested organization got involved in this year’s dinner so its members would know what’s involved for future years.
“Organizing the dinner is something that takes considerable time. We pretty much start planning for the next year’s dinner the day after this year’s and we get really busy from September onward,” she said.
Last year, the community dinner served 250 dinners at the Bridge Workshop and sent out more than a hundred more meals to the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre and for firefighters and police officers working on Dec. 25.
“We’re committed to this year’s dinner because we made a promise last year that we’d have the dinner this year plus we accepted donations for this year’s dinner. If someone doesn’t come forward we won’t be taking donations for next year’s dinner,” Prager said. “This could be the last dinner.”
The situation faced by dinner organizers is similar to that faced by supporters of the Christmas for Kids program several years ago. As its members aged there were concerns about that program’s future. That was until the Amherst Lions Club stepped in to maintain the program that makes sure every child in Cumberland County has a gift under the tree on Christmas morning.
For more information, contact Prager at 902-669-0757.