Volunteers at the Mary Winspear Centre gifted Sidney with holiday cheer through food, music and presents at the Christmas day community dinner.
For some, volunteering during the holidays is a new and hopeful tradition and for others, it is a yearly tradition that heals.
Alice Howes, who entertained dinner-goers as Mrs. Claus Dec. 25, has been dressing up as the leading-lady of Christmas for years, in a costume she made herself four decades ago.
This year, however, marks the first since her husband passed, making it even more important for her to get out of the house and give back to the community, she said.
While this was the first year that she has been Mrs. Claus for the Mary Winspear Centre, volunteering on Christmas day as been her tradition going back years.
“I would take our truck or whatever had wheels and go to all the little nursing homes,” she said. “I always do Christmas in the manger at the fair, so we have a Mr. Santa and Catriona thought this year, maybe a Mrs. Santa would be nicer to go around and see the people, and it has been quite entertaining. I’ve been shocked at how many people are not at home cooking.”
Catriona McHattie is an organizer of the community dinner and said getting everything together was a huge community effort, requiring the help of a long list of sponsors including Mitchell Farms, Level Ground Coffee and Sidney Lions Food Bank, as well as local individuals who set aside time during their holiday celebrations to help others.
Barb Farrar and her family decided to volunteer to help out at the dinner after deciding to celebrate Christmas sans gifts this year.
“This is my first Christmas here, I moved from Alberta,” Farrar said “We’re hoping it becomes a family tradition.”
Farrar brought her whole family and a few friends to volunteer in what she calls an “un-Christmas.”
“This is all new but this is a new tradition that we hope to carry on,” she said. “This was the only thing I knew was happening, but we figured they needed help and being a senior – I knew there would be a lot of seniors, so here we are.”
The two sittings, at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., included trays full of food from Fairways Market, Thrifty Foods and Sidney Bakery and diners were treated to holiday classics by a local Ukulele group.
“Really what I want to convey is that the entire community has come together after two years of COVID to put on this dinner,” McHattie said. “Everybody’s been so generous of their time, we have lots of volunteers that offered to give their assistance and we’re all just very grateful.”