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Community Christmas Dinner marks 10 years

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

 

The Community Christmas Dinner celebrated a big milestone Monday in Pembroke marking 10 years since it first opened its doors to neighbours and those who would otherwise spend the day alone.

Hosted once more at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church on Miller Street, the dinner served up a hearty meal of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and all the trimmings to a crowd of some 325 people. Another 200 meals were delivered to shut-ins.

There was an atmosphere of festive merriment and good cheer as volunteers served the delicious course to guests. The meal was once more a co-operative undertaking between Giant Tiger, the Pembroke Business Improvement Area, St. Luke's Anglican Church and Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. Lou Hammill, owner of the Pembroke Giant Tiger, said it is amazing how much the event has grown into a distinct Christmas tradition for the city.

“Everybody has a place where they can come and join in with other people,” said Hammill noting Christmas can as lonely a time for people as it is joyous. “It's a beautiful thing.”

For the sixth consecutive year, Jamie Waito and his cooks from Dreams Catering prepared the dinner of 10 turkeys, while drivers with the Pembroke Handi-Bus volunteered to deliver meals to shut-ins and taxi folks to and from the dinner.

“We do this because this is how I can give back to the community,” said Waito. “We've been very blessed.”

An operation of this magnitude takes a few days to pull off. The cooks had to prepare nine turkeys, 100 pounds of potatoes and 80 pounds of assorted vegetables. Apple and pumpkin pies, as well as other desserts, were provided by the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church women's group.

In addition, the group of volunteers and co-ordinators gathered to cut a 10th anniversary cake. The dinner has been served in several venues over the years, including Wesley Community Church, St. Luke's Anglican, and the former Joey's Only restaurant.

“It keeps getting better,” added Hammill. “We have the same volunteers who come out year after year. It's amazing.”

Waito noted that they meet some of the same guests as well. He recounted how three widows who were here last year wanted to come back for the 2017 dinner.

“I told them we don't want you to be alone on Christmas,” he added.

There were several volunteers devoting their first Christmas to the event. Kevin Rabishaw said it was great to help out and give back to the community. He volunteers with the Grind Coffeehouse in downtown Pembroke and noticed some of the same folks who have showed up there.

SChase@postmedia.com