Even though it was her first year organizing the community Christmas dinner, Vanessa Hebert found the annual event going as strong as ever, drawing about 220 people—20 more than last year.
“I’m definitely already looking forward to next year,” she remarked Friday.
“I was nervous about it this time,” she admitted. “But then I got into it, and saw how the volunteers were all working together. I really enjoyed myself.
“I think things went very smoothly this year.”
The dinner, which ran from noon to 2 p.m. on Christmas Day at Knox United Church, saw 30 volunteers help cook and serve the food (which again was donated by individuals in the community) and 20 drivers deliver 60 meals to those who couldn’t make it down to the church.
“Meals on Wheels” recipients also each received a poinsettia with their dinner, courtesy of Lowey’s Greenhouse.
Hebert highlighted the importance of the volunteers involved.
“The volunteers are the thing that really makes this dinner,” she stressed. “The more volunteers you have, it makes everything go smoother.
“I was thrilled to see so many involved. The volunteers were so great,” she added. “And, of course, the donations—you can’t really have this without the donations.”
Speaking of donations, there was an ample amount this year, with six hams and 13 turkeys cooked up for the dinner. Other items, like desserts, coffee, tea, and pickles, were purchased with monetary donations.
“We ran out of ham and dressing, so maybe we’ll try to get more next year,” noted Hebert, adding there was some leftover turkey and potatoes, which was not unusual.
One volunteer who lent his help to the dinner for the first time this year was Robin Wright.
“It was a new experience,” he said. “I’ve been involved in a lot of things in the community [like the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, the Kiwanis Club, the Knox United Church council, and minor hockey], but this was a new way to give back to it. To make people happy.”
Wright volunteered along with his sister, Penny, who was in town visiting from Winnipeg, and daughter, Tamsyn.
“From what I experienced, it’s something we’re looking at to do again next year,” said Wright. “For the people who come out, it’s not just about having a meal, it’s about being able to have the whole Christmas experience.”
One local resident who rarely has missed the community Christmas dinner is Marj Hull-Katerick, who was accompanied by her brother, Bradley Holland, this year.
“I think it’s an annual event for everyone,” Hull-Katerick remarked. “It’s good to see Vanessa had a great turnout. It’s not just for those who maybe have nowhere else to go.
“It’s a wonderful time to get together.”
And this year’s dinner was as special as ever. Even though Hull-Katerick would have been spending it with her late husband, Boris Katerick, for the seventh year in a row, she certainly was surrounded by friends last Wednesday afternoon.
“I had a wonderful Christmas. Everybody made a special effort to let me know how much they care,” she said.
Jackie and Gerry Guimond, David O’Dell ,and Colleen Coté provided the dinner music, performing a selection of Christmas songs. Gerry Guimond also said grace.
Hebert noted although the dinner was supposed to start at noon, many people actually showed up shortly after 11 a.m. “We weren’t quite ready to serve them then, so they did their visiting then,” she said.
“By 2 p.m., we started cleaning up, and we were out of there by 4:15 p.m., which is better than last year, which was about 6 p.m.,” she added.