AMHERST, N.S. – When Amherst’s community Christmas dinner concluded organizers and volunteers were awestruck at what they’d accomplished – considering a year ago it looked as though a decade more than a decade old had run its course.
“It’s amazing how this community accepts a challenge and comes together to make it happen,” Bill Munro of Archway Insurance said following the Dec. 25 dinner. “It went very well, I think it may have been the biggest crowd ever.”
What started as a small dinner organized by a single person at the Amherst Fire Department 14 years ago, grew to become an annual event bringing volunteers and people from all walks of life to have a turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
For more than a decade it ran at the Bridge Workshop, but fatigue and illness took its toll on the organizing committee and there were many who thought the 2017 dinner would be it. A group of community supporters, including Archway Insurance, Tantramar Chevrolet Buick GMC Ltd., DGF Realty, Maltby-Casey Investment Group and CIBC Wood Gundy came together to hire the Old Warehouse Café to cater the dinner while the Amherst Lions Club offered their community centre as a new home for the dinner.
The two-hour dinner started a little earlier than scheduled on Christmas Day and the flow of participants was very steady until petering out just before 4 p.m.
“When we got here there were already people lining up waiting to get in, so we decided to start a little earlier,” Munro said. “We are very thankful to everyone who supported this dinner in any way, from the volunteers – some of whom keeping coming back year after year, to the Amherst Lions Club for offering their terrific venue which is perfect in that there’s plenty of room and people could sit and enjoy their meal and the fellowship.
Munro said other Amherst companies joined in to support the dinner. He complimented the Old Warehouse Café for its catering job and welcomed staff from the Wandlyn Inn, which donated the desserts and Port Howe’s Sara Jewell, who donated a 22-pound turkey to the effort.
Treva Hebb and her husband have been coming to the dinner for many years and enjoy the spirit that’s present every year.
“For us, it’s a chance to get out on Christmas Day and enjoy a nice meal and the fellowship that goes along with coming together in this way,” she said. “Otherwise, we would be at home alone. I think that’s what makes this dinner so popular.”
For Bill and Colleen Dowe this was the first year they’ve participated as volunteers.
Bill said he heard there was a possibility the dinner would be cancelled so he got involved and didn’t mind giving up several hours on the holiday to help out.
“We found ourselves at home alone this Christmas and we knew this was a great event and wanted to help yout,” Bill said. “It’s something we wanted to do to give back to the community. We’ll definitely be back to do this again, it’s an incredible event.”
Colleen said she was always surprised at how many people would give up their time on Christmas Day, but now that she has experienced it for herself she had a better understanding of the importance of the event.
“It’s something we felt we had to do,” she said. “It’s amazing to see how many people come out as groups and it’s humbling to see how many come in alone and how many children and families come.”
Rob Roy has been a volunteer for 11 years.
“This is an important dinner to many people. Without it, many would be alone on Christmas,” he said. “The important thing is people from all walks of life come to this dinner and the same can be said for the volunteers, we’re from all walks of life and it’s a nice feeling to be able to do something for the community.”