Christmas dinner a community endeavour

Christmas is a time for people to come together—whether they be family, friends, or perhaps just neighbours.
And one enduring tradition exemplifying this is the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau’s community Christmas dinner.
Now in its 18th year, the annual dinner was held Sunday afternoon at Knox United Church and once again it embodied the spirit of community, Denise Audette, executive director of the Volunteer Bureau, said yesterday.
“It went wonderfully,” she enthused. “We served about 300 people.
“The day went off, literally, without any problems. We had more than enough volunteers,” she added. “I just thank everyone for their help because we really pulled off an excellent event.”
Audette stressed the dinner is truly an effort of volunteers, noting local citizens once again stepped up to donate their time.
More than 40 volunteers performed numerous tasks on Christmas Day, ranging from setting up tables and chairs in the basement of Knox United Church to cooking, serving food, and delivering meals to shut-ins.
“We had some experienced volunteers, but we also had a lot of new volunteers this year,” noted Audette. “They very much enjoyed themselves and will be back again next year.
“That, itself, shows how well things went.”
Audette said the day was organized well in that everyone had their job and they knew what was expected of them.
“That’s where I wanted it to go. You want the volunteers to enjoy themselves, and don’t want them stressing out,” she added. “It went really well. I was impressed.”
Since this was her first time organizing the community Christmas dinner, Audette said the fact she and the committee had started planning in early November was one of the keys to the event’s success.
It gave them time to round up donations—and make sure all their bases were covered.
“I have to thank them. Obviously, it wouldn’t have went as well it did without them,” she remarked. “The few days before, I started to worry. Like ‘Oh, gosh, am I forgetting anything?’
“But they’d done it in the past and could lead me on my way.”
Given the positive response to the dinner, Audette said she’s looking forward to organizing it again next year.
“It was a huge success,” she enthused. “And the compliments coming out of there that day—we had people coming up to us saying it was so much fun.
“We knew immediately it went off well.”
In addition to the meal, which included all the traditional Yuletide fixings, Diane Maxey and her Choraliers provided entertainment, as did Caitlin Sande, who sang a few songs, and Chelsea Audette, who played the piano.
“The cantata was beautiful. I love listening to them. They’re always a treat,” said Audette. “It went really well.”
And to keep children busy, there was a corner area with colouring books and even an elf (Lyle Dolph).
Audette noted the dinner did not run out of food, which was in ample supply thanks to cash and food donations from local businesses, organizations, and service clubs as well as numerous individuals.
Assistance also came in other forms. For instance, Pizza Connection used its ovens to cook up the turkeys while Kettles lent theirs to cook the hams.
“Meals on Wheels” were delivered starting at 11 a.m. on Sunday while the dinner itself ran from noon-2 p.m.
Audette noted the dinner was busy until the end, and that some volunteers even stayed at the church until late afternoon to clean up the basement area, which had been lavishly decorated in festive trappings.