Christmas dinner not just for the birds

For most people, it would take an awful lot to tear them away from their families on Christmas Day.
But Rod Salchert found the solution to that–bring your family with you. That’s how seven of his family members ended up at Knox United Church last Wednesday to help out at the 10th-annual community Christmas dinner.
“We’ve been talking about it for quite a while,” Salchert admitted, explaining with his family, one person–usually his daughter, Roxanne–got stuck preparing the Christmas Day feast.
By attending the community dinner, they all got a chance to help out and relax while partaking in the feast.
And in doing that, they joined about 170 other people who ventured out to chat with friends and neighbours over a scrumptious turkey dinner, with all the fixings, and dessert.
“It was excellent. I think [numbers were] a little bit up from last year,” noted organizer Dodi DeBenedet, adding about 40 volunteers helped make it a success.
Seeing a real increase in popularity was the “meals on wheels,” with the number of plates delivered to homes nearly doubling from last year.
“Last year, it was in the 30s,” DeBenedet said, adding 55 meals went into homes this year.
The community donated more food than was eaten but none of the leftovers went to waste. People from the United Native Friendship Centre took it for their food bank.
While she enthused about this year’s dinner, DeBenedet admitted it was difficult to compare it to past years.
“There were a lot of new faces there and a lot of new families,” she noted.
Along with Salcherts, the Seids were another family who attended the dinner for the first time. Salem Seid said they had planned to go to Thunder Bay for Christmas but then his wife got sick so they stayed home.
Rather than have a meal alone with their two young children, the Seids went to the dinner to be around other people.
“It was great,” Seid said yesterday, noting it wasn’t that different than being with family. “We still saw people we know.”
But it wasn’t just newcomers who decided to join in. Kathy Metke-Quinn, along with her husband, Dean, and their six children, were back for the 10th time. And this year, they were joined by her brother and mother.
“I want my kids to think of Christmas not as a time of ‘what did I get?’” Metke-Quinn said of why her family returned each year, stressing she wanted to instill the spiritual aspect of the season into her children.
“[And] that sense of wanting to participate in a community event,” she added. “Christmas should be a community celebration.”
Metke-Quinn noted there were many core volunteers who had participated right from the start and had become such an integral part of the dinner.
Some, she said, were up in the wee hours Christmas morning, not because excited children wake them but to prepare for the meal.
“It becomes such a part of their lives,” she enthused. “And there’s a variety of people who go.”
And DeBenedet stressed she relies heavily on the volunteers who come back year after year to ensure things run smoothly.
Meanwhile, even though he kept busy working, Salchert insisted he had a great time.
“Everybody was very friendly,” he noted. “We talked it over and we’re going to go again next year.
“It just felt good.”