The annual Yuletide Dinner served its 22nd community meal for those in need of food or fellowship at the Sacred Heart Hall on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
A cozy family affair for many of the dinner’s patrons, the Sacred Heart Hall was full of steady traffic as streams of people came in, sat down and were treated to a quality turkey dinner, In addition to the chatter of conversation, Christmas tunes sung by the Cariboo Men’s Choir and later by LeRae Haynes and Friends.
The event was organized as a joint effort by the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Cariboo Chilcotin Child Development Centre. This is a partnership that Lynn Paterson, the president of the society, said has been going on for the last five years. She said the goal of her organization is to “feed the poor through Christ” so an event like this is right up their alley, with many of the night’s volunteers made up of parishioners of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
Cooking enough food for around 600 people is no small task which is why Paterson said they start their cooking a full two days in advance, in this case on Monday, Dec. 2, when they began cooking 45 turkeys, itself an undertaking. Around halfway through the night, she said she wasn’t sure exactly how many people they’d served but she estimated it was close to the 400 mark.
“I like the idea that all the volunteers get together and work together to pull off this event. This time of year, Christmas time, a little bit of giving, I think we enjoy it more (sometimes) than the people we serve. I think that’s what I enjoy the most,” Paterson said. “It just brings the community together and shows a little bit of love and kindness to our neighbour and (a chance) to forget about our problems and the troubles.”
Much of the food St. Vincent de Paul purchased for the night was done at the Real Canadian Wholesale Club, who granted them a donation to help subsidize the costs.
Overall, based on the smiles on people’s faces, Paterson said she considers this iteration of the Yuletide Dinner a great success. She said that as long as the CCCDC wants them to hold the event, she and the society will be more than happy to work with them.
Paterson added that the Society of St Vincent de Paul is always open to donations of food or money and provides sandwiches and soup to those in need in Boitanio Park every Sunday. Everything they do is done thanks to generous donations from the community, she added.
The CCCDC, meanwhile, first started organizing this event just over two decades ago and still handles raising funds to pay for the event and the responsibility of finding a venue each year. The fundraising effort was led this year by Sara Fulton, a five year veteran of the CCCDC, who said this is her second year organizing their side of the event.
“We more or less look after the donations, so it’s a big community event, we couldn’t do it without all of our community supporters and the donations that come in,” Fulton said. “We put together all the stockings for the kids and that is as well, all donations from local stores, and individuals, sometimes.”
Overall, it can take upwards of $10,000 to put on this event, Fulton said, with funds for this year still coming in, although they had more than enough to fund the dinner. They also provided two vehicles to transport people to and from the event for those who didn’t have a way to get to Sacred Heart.
In addition to St. Vincent de Paul and the CCCDC, Fulton said that Brice O’Neill, chef of the former New World Coffee and Tea House, donates his time to serve as head chef and oversee all the cooking.
“It’s a super fabulous event, it’s such an eye opener how many people partake in it and how many mouths we feed. For some people, this is their Christmas dinner and they don’t get another one,” Fulton said. “It’s pretty amazing, some years we’ve done 700 people.”