Christmas can be a special time of the year. It can also be a trying time for some who don’t get out, are away from friends and family and those who just find themselves stretched for time and patience.
For over 21 years, the Stouffville Christmas Wish Dinner experience has been working to bring people together to celebrate Christmas and enjoy the friendship and comradery that the holiday is known for.
Started by Norm and Nancy Clements, as a fairly intimate, no-cost event for those that were missing that special occasion in their lives, it soon grew to be a full-on turkey feast that sat 300 people down in the EastRidge Community Church gym on 10th line. All costs were paid and no questions asked about who partook and all food and costs covered by donations and run by volunteers.
EastRidge’s Pastor Tim Soukup, one of the organizers of the 2019 edition of the Christmas Wish Dinner, explained that while the event was a huge success, it also grew bigger than the church could handle and it also left others out who either could not get out easily or people who were just to shy too accept the offer and step into a place they were not familiar with.
The next logical step, he notes, was to take the dinner to people instead and have people organize many smaller dinners in their homes or group meeting places around the community.
So, now, with a team of between 40 and 60 volunteers – driving cars, prepping food, cooking, and packaging the dinners for delivery — the organizing team of Soukup, Harry Renaud, Tamara Carlson, Lawrie Yakabuski as well as Norm and Nancy Clements, expect to deliver over 600 hot turkey dinners all over Whitchurch-Stouffville this coming Christmas morning as they did last year.
Of course, the work starts a day or two ahead of that as stations of people at EastRidge, where the preparation is still done, start peeling potatoes, cooking the pies, prepping the cranberry sauce and cooking the birds before the drivers hit the road.
The event, explains Renaud, remains a free, no questions asked option event that is not really about whether participants can afford the festive meal or not, it’s about cultivating that sense of community and fellowship at what is a special time of the year for many.
An estimated $3300 of food and supplies is bought for the dinner while another $4000 or so worth of product is donated to the cause each year – mostly by individual donors, the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville and a few businesses have also chipped in.
Most of the donations needed for the 2019 edition of the dinner have already been collected, but Carlson makes sure to mention that a few more volunteers are always welcome. “Tell them that everything is provided,” she enthuses. “We provide all the utensils, food and even aprons.”
It does not include the cars that drivers need, however, so donating a couple of hours of time and a few bucks in gas is a useful contribution if you are not as at home in the kitchen as some. You might also find the smiles from grateful recipients a rich reward for your time.
If you would like to help with this unique community experience or want to organize a dinner, you can email [email protected] or call 647 763 7808.
Merry Christmas to all.