For the past 30 years, local residents from all walks of life have joined together for the community Christmas dinner–and this coming Monday will be no different.
The Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau will be hosting the annual dinner from noon-2 p.m. on Christmas Day at Knox United Church here.
“Everything’s coming together, everything’s on track,” said executive director Matt Soprovich, who is helping organize the dinner for his first time this year.
“I attribute that to the great group of ladies that I’m working with that know far more than I do and I am very grateful for–Judy Kielczewski, Diane Maxey, June Caul, Gaby Hanzuk, and Judy Koski,” he noted.
“Everyone’s taking a piece and making it work.”
Soprovich said the dinner has received tremendous support from the community.
For instance, the annual “Stuff-A-Cruiser” campaign held Dec. 9 donated a total of 18 turkeys, 16 hams, and 110 boxes of stuffing to the dinner–exceeding the requests made by the Volunteer Bureau.
“We all really appreciate the goodwill of this community,” Soprovich enthused. “It’s really something special to see how many people, how many businesses, how many organizations really participate in this event.
“People are really excited to give back, and I think that it’s great we can be a part of this and see everybody else participate and really show their appreciation for the meaning of the season,” he added.
As in past years, the community Christmas dinner will be free and “100 percent open to everyone,” Soprovich stressed.
“What I’m finding fascinating is people come and say, ‘Look, we are 75 years old, there’s just the two of us, and it’s tough to cook a meal with so much preparation,'” he recounted.
“‘We love what you do, we love the idea of this dinner. We love coming, giving a couple of bucks, and supporting the dinner as much as we can.’
“I had a little old lady call me last week and say, ‘Is this for me? I have a son that’s coming in and it’s just the two of us. I’ve never done this before.’
“And I said, ‘Please show up. We’ll take care of you,'” Soprovich recalled.
“You have people who maybe don’t have families or their families are too far away,” he noted.
“Every family’s or person’s Christmas dinner is a heck of a lot of work so if you would rather come out to this one instead, everyone is welcome.”
Thanks to renovations at Knox United Church in recent years, the venue now is fully-accessible.
A crack team of volunteers, led by Kielczewski, has been assembled to cook the Christmas dinner, but helping hands still are needed for other jobs that day.
These include greeting people, serving food, setting up before the dinner, and cleaning up afterward.
Maxey, who is in charge of volunteers, urged anyone interested in donating an hour–or more–of their time to give her a call at 274-7309.
“We can set up a time,” she explained. “If you want to serve or clean up or whatever, I’ll give them times.
“Then they won’t have to stand around and feel like they’re not doing anything–that’s not fair for them.
“If they’ve got a job to do, then they know what time to come,” Maxey reasoned.
“I have some volunteers that say, ‘Put me wherever you want and I’ll stay the whole time.’ That’s great,” she added.
“But there’s others who have only an hour or whatever, and I appreciate that and like to slot them in where I can.”
Maxey herself has volunteered at the Christmas dinner year after year, and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.
“It gives me such joy,” she enthused. “I love to see people get together that really have no family other than themselves–maybe one or two of their own family members.
“It’s the camaraderie, for me, that I love to see,” Maxey added. “You’ll see a single person come in, or a couple that has no other family here, and they just enjoy it.
“It’s a time to get together, be with one another, and share the Christmas spirit.”
Maxey also is in charge of entertainment, and will be leading a couple dozen of the Fort Frances Choraliers in festive song during Monday’s dinner starting at 1 p.m.
Meanwhile, those who can’t attend the dinner in person, for whatever reason, can have a Christmas meal delivered to them via “Meals on Wheels.”
If you need a meal delivered to you, you must contact Caul at 274-2209 before this Friday (Dec. 22).
The meal will be delivered around 11:30 a.m. on Christmas Day.
Those who would like to volunteer to drive and deliver “Meals on Wheels” on Christmas Day also can contact Caul.
Usually, about 70 people get “Meals on Wheels” delivered to them every Christmas.