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Volunteers key ingredient for annual community Christmas dinner in Antigonish

One of the keys each year to a successful Christmas Day community dinner at St. James United Church Hall is the contribution of Sodexho Food Services at St. F.X. Chef Michael Pollock (second, left) and kitchen staff members cook the main course - turkeys - along with stuffing and gravy - for the celebration. Sodexho general manager Tim Hierlihy (left), Pollock and dinner co-ordinator Natasha AlAwashez, along with event volunteers Connie Beaton and Derek Bower, gathered recently to plan for delivery of the birds to Morrison Hall. Corey LeBlanc
One of the keys each year to a successful Christmas Day community dinner at St. James United Church Hall is the contribution of Sodexho Food Services at St. F.X. Chef Michael Pollock (second, left) and kitchen staff members cook the main course - turkeys - along with stuffing and gravy - for the celebration. Sodexho general manager Tim Hierlihy (left), Pollock and dinner co-ordinator Natasha AlAwashez, along with event volunteers Connie Beaton and Derek Bower, gathered recently to plan for delivery of the birds to Morrison Hall. Corey LeBlanc - Corey LeBlanc

Celebration set for Dec. 25 at St. James United Church hall

A celebration that has become a holiday tradition in Antigonish is marking its ninth anniversary.    

The community Christmas Day dinner will take place Dec. 25, at 2 p.m., at St. James United Church Hall.    

“There is a huge variety of people who come – it is a really nice social event for people,” Natasha AlAwashez, who is in her second year as event co-ordinator, said.    

“We have people whose family is away, or they don’t really have anyone around anymore.”    

“We also have people who really do need the meal, and we have people who just want to spend time with their community on Christmas Day,” she added.    

AlAwashez said organizers have started getting the word out regarding the celebration through social media and other avenues, such as local church bulletins.    

“We try to respect Remembrance Day, so we don’t really post anything until after that, and then it is full speed ahead,” she said.    

Spearheaded by the mother-daughter duo of Betty and Carolyn Webber – who thought there were many community activities during the holiday season, but none on Christmas Day – a group of volunteers cooked up an afternoon of food, friendship and fun for more than 60 people.    

The rest, as they say, is history.    

Although the yuletide gathering has grown, including in the number of meals served, and evolved, there are key ingredients that have remained, including the need for volunteers.    

“There is always a great response; there are a lot of people involved,” AlAwashez said.    

Along with small planning committee, which leads preparations, volunteers carry out myriad tasks – both leading-up to and during the event – including food preparation and set-up.    

“The day of – there are a variety of jobs – and then the cleaning up afterwards,” she noted.    

AlAwashez said the “biggest need,” at this point, is volunteers to cook and bring in dishes on the day of the meal.    

Sodexho, the food service provider at St. F.X. – will, once again, cook the turkeys.    

“It will be really nice to have that all-natural food,” she noted of an offer from an area farmer to provide home-raised birds.    

Food donations – including potatoes, turnips and carrots – along with monetary contributions to help buy items, such as tea and coffee, are always welcome.    

“Anything is greatly appreciated,” AlAwashez said.    

Contributions can be dropped off at St. James.    

“Any donations that don’t necessarily need to be used on that day, will go to the hot meal program,” she said.    

The St. James United hot meal program, which runs twice a week, from September until June, and once a week during the summer months.    

Organizers have set up a page – www.stjamesuc.com/xmas - to accept monetary donations for the community Christmas dinner.    

Tax receipts will be issued to donors.    

For more information, including how to volunteer or contribute food, contact AlAwashez at 902-872-2737 or xmas@stjamesuc.com

   

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