This is the fifth year a group of volunteers has come together to host the Amherst Community Christmas Dinner on Dec. 25.
This year’s event runs from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Bridge Workshop on Station Street with music again being provided by Barry Patriquin and friends and a complete Christmas dinner with all the fixings.
“It’s a way for the community to join together to celebrate the season,” committee member Will Rodd said. “It’s a place anyone can come on Christmas Day to have a meal, enjoy some entertainment and be with other members of the community.”
This the eight year for the community Christmas dinner. It started with Bev Fynn coming up with the idea to hold a complete turkey dinner for those who may be alone at Christmas. After being held at the Amherst Fire Department for a couple of years, it moved to the Bridge Workshop as more people joined the committee and the event took on greater organization with more community involvement.
“It’s been great to see how it has grown and how the community has gotten behind it,” committee member Betsy Prager said. “We see a number of the same faces every year and we also see new people. We also see families who come out to volunteer as well as to have a meal. We have children who came to the dinner with their families who are old enough to volunteer and are coming to help out.”
Prager said the support the dinner has received is overwhelming. He said organizations such as the Amherst Lions Club and Amherst Rotary Club have been very supportive financially and with volunteers, while the Town of Amherst and its employees have also supported the dinner.
She said there are many stories that come out of the dinner. She said last year the committee got a note from a woman who had lost her foster father. Her family was really struggling with Christmas because it was the first holiday season without him. They went to the community dinner and it helped them get through the season.
In another case, a women who had been living out west for many years came home to deal with her father in palliative care. She had no where to go for Christmas dinner until a nurse at the hospital told her about the community dinner.
“There was another woman who sent us a note saying she was alone at Christmas. A friend of hers invited her to dinner, but she didn’t want to intrude so she came to the community Christmas dinner,” Prager said. “That’s what the dinner is all about, it’s about community and making sure everyone has a Christmas dinner.”
Prager said the dinner is also popular among some clients of Addiction Services, who many have burned bridges because of their addiction. For those battling a drinking addiction, Christmas can be a tough time. She said some of those clients will go to the community dinner because there’s no alcohol.
Last year, Prager said there were 200 people through the door at the Bridge Workshop along with 50 volunteers, who did everything from hang up people’s coats to guiding them to the buffet and to their table.
Along with the people served at the dinner, another 42 meals were taken to the Cumberland Regional Health Care for staff, while EHS paramedics police were also fed.
Prager said there are so many individuals and companies that help the cause. She said Bambino’s Pizzeria has been a supporter from the beginning. Once it closes for Christmas on Dec. 23, volunteers use its ovens to cook 14, 30-pound turkeys. Highland Market provides the turkeys at cost, Oxford Frozen Foods supplies the carrots and turnips, Ben’s Bread supplies rolls, another company supplies bread for stuffing and Scotsburn Dairy provides dairy products.
She said a lot of people also make donations to the cause.
“If we had to pay for everything it would likely cost us about $5,000. We’re able to do this because of the generosity of service clubs, individuals, companies, the Bridge Workshop and a group of volunteers who come back every year to help out,” Rodd said. “It’s all about making Christmas the best it can be for people. We’re growing every year and we keep making improvements.”