It was a Christmas filled with hellos, hugs and handshakes in Amherst.
While many businesses were closed for the holiday, Santa’s special elves kept the spirit of the season going well beyond the morning when most already had their fill of unwrapping presents. While the clients at the Bridge Adult Services Centre were home celebrating Christmas Day a special group of elves moved into the Station Street location. Inside, chatter shared the air with the delicious smell of turkey dinner.
“It’s hard for anybody to be alone at Christmas,” community Christmas Dinner co-organizer Betsy Prager said.
Now in its 11th year, the dinner is an opportunity for shut-ins, the elderly and singles to mix and mingle as volunteers from all walks of life work to make the joyous day a little bit easier. It’s a faux pas to think only the destitute or downtrodden participate in community Christmas dinners. Listening to the laughter, it’s evident it’s quite the contrary.
“There’s a lot of rich people here,” co-organizer Rob Roy says.
The community dinner, Roy said, came about because of a need in the community. Not everyone has the means or ability to prepare their own meal during the holidays, but by combining their numbers everyone find a strength during the holidays not always found any other time of the year. For Prager, who is an addictions services counselor, she sees the dinner as a drug and alcohol-free option worthy of support. For Roy, a single parent, it is an opportunity to be busy during a time he’s generally not.
This year there are over 50 volunteers helping make the event another success. Prager and Roy expect upwards of 300 people at the centre and even more will have a taste of the day courtesy of volunteers providing delivery services. This is not their most prolific year on record – one year over 450 people were served – but that’s not to say it will not go down as one of their best years on record.
“In the past we accepted donations, but this year we didn’t take any,” Roy said.
The generosity of local businesses, service groups and members of the public – too many to list – have made it possible for this year’s event to be self-sustaining. Food and ingredient donations matched with funds left no one wanting during the planning stages and the Old Warehouse Café was hired to cater.
Like some of the participants, organizers for the community Christmas dinner are getting older themselves, and there’s hope some new faces will take the helm, Prager and Roy said. The current organizers are will to mentor prospects to ensure the future success of the dinner. Anyone interested in becoming involved in the 2018 dinner can email Prager at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 902-669-0757.