The 22nd Annual Yuletide Dinner is coming up at the Sacred Heart Hall on Wednesday, December 4th, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings is free to those who find themselves lean on funds or short of company during the holidays. This year the event is being coordinated by the CDC’s Vanessa Riplinger.
“There is a real need in our community,” Riplinger said. “Last year we served over 500 dinners. It is important for families to be able to celebrate Christmas together.”
The dinner is held in partnership with the Cariboo Chilcotin Child Development Centre, Sacred Heart Parish, and the Society of St. Vincent De Paul and made possible with the help of volunteers and donations from the community.
Riplinger said it is a real team effort. Brice O’Neill from the New World Coffee and Tea House and Lynn Paterson from the Society of St. Vincent De Paul are taking charge of purchasing and cooking the turkey dinner with help from volunteers and cooks at Sacred Heart Church. As well, numerous volunteers are needed to help with set up, serving, clean up, and everything in between, she added.
Children and teens will once again be able to visit Santa and receive a stocking filled with goodies and small gifts. There will be live music again, as local choirs and musicians donate their time and talent.
Karen Day graciously organizes the making of the stockings and always makes sure we have enough to fill for the children and teens. Local businesses, community organizations, and individuals donate items for filling the stockings.
The only way we are able to make this dinner possible is with our dedicated volunteers and donations from the general public. The cost to sponsor an individual meal is $11, or $44 to sponsor a family of four.
The Child Development Centre also provides free transportation to and from the dinner for those in need within the city limits.
The dinner was originally started by chef Walter Brunner and a group of businesswomen who held the event in the banquet room at the Williams Inn. From there it moved to the Fraser Inn for a few years and then found a long-term home at the Overlander Convention Centre where staff cooked the meals and volunteers helped with the serving, collecting donations and gifts for the children.
The event was moved to the Sacred Heart Hall with the idea of involving more of the community and making it easier for people who live downtown to walk to the dinner, Riplinger said.
“It is an event the community loves,” Riplinger said, recounting some of the special ways in which the Yuletide Dinner has brought families together over the years. “We have people lining up an hour before the doors open; they look forward to it so much.”
In some cases, she said the dinner has allowed extended families from different circumstances to share a Christmas meal together, which they might not otherwise be able to afford. Some years, people new to the community or who just happened to be alone during the holiday season came to the dinner and enjoy themselves so much that they end up donating or volunteering to it in the following years.
Working at the CDC she noted that she often sees the financial strain that having a child with special needs places on a family. The extra cost of travel for assessment and treatment with specialists in larger communities can really be a burden. The Yuletide Dinner is a great place for them to come enjoy the season, without the financial worry.
“There are some really special stories that happen around the Yuletide Dinner,” Riplinger said. “It’s always an amazing event.”
If you have any questions, if you require transportation, or if you would like to donate, please call the Child Development Centre at 250-392-4481.