It is still a few days away, but you can already imagine that delectable aroma – one that only takes place once a year.
It is the scent of the one-of-a-kind chowder inspired by Antigonish chef Mark Gabrieau, a mainstay of the annual Jingle Bell Frolic.
The St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Auxiliary fundraiser is on the menu for Friday, Nov. 29, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Gathering Place (formerly Claire Marie).
“It is – for many – a start to the Christmas season,” Marius Langley, a long-time auxiliary member, said.
Along with the chowder, there will be traditional bake table and fudge to help satisfy any appetite.
There are also the attic treasures, ‘oldies but goodies’ table and seasonal decorations.
“We always have so many awesome prizes,” auxiliary member Yvonne Gallant noted.
One of the highlights this year will be what Langley described as a “special gift” that honours the late Joe Arsenault, a tireless supporter of the auxiliary and its fundraisers.
Pierre, a sculpture fashioned by the artisan, has been donated by Arsenault’s sons and their families.
Along with their father’s long-time support, the boys’ mother – the late Mabel Arsenault – was a dedicated auxiliary member.
“We are so very grateful to the Arsenault family and friends for this gift,” Langley said.
As auxiliary member Nancy MacEachern described it, another “truly special” donation this year is large wooden angel carved by Imelda George.
“It is a magnificent piece of woodworking,” Langley said.
An anonymous donor gifted the piece to the auxiliary.
Those two pieces, along with a Hillborne pottery bowl, are expected to help the silent auction table to continue as a “center of attention” for the fundraiser.
Bids on the angel, along with a breathtaking rug donated by the Antigonish Highland Hookers, can be made – in the lead-up to the event – at the Gift Corner, the St. Martha’s gift shop run by the auxiliary in the hospital lobby.
The rug, along with a rich fruit cake, a jam and jellies collection and a stone created by Arsenault Monuments, will be raffle ticket prize offerings.
“It is as popular as ever,” MacEachern said of the seasonal fundraiser.
Of course, it tops the to-do list for hundreds of people from the community; not to mention the staff members, nurses and doctors from the hospital, who take advantage of the nearby location.
Many take their break or pop over to enjoy lunch.
“We get amazing support from so many people and groups,” Langley said.
Last year, the Jingle Bell Frolic garnered more than $20,000.
It, along with Mayfest – which takes place each spring, are the key annual fundraisers that are coupled with the auxiliary’s day-to-day operation of The Gift Corner and the neighbouring Breakaway Café.
In the last couple of years, members have also participated in a ticket sale during the annual Windfall Fine Art and Handcraft Market, with proceeds benefitting the auxiliary.
The volunteer group has more than 50 ‘active’ members, while more than 100 volunteers make contributions throughout the year.
MacEachern noted the need for hospital equipment has only increased, considering the development of technology that makes items obsolete, along with the decrease in provincial funding for such purchases.
On a yearly basis, the auxiliary averages a more than $250,000 contribution to purchases and initiatives for St. Martha’s. This year, they have targeted approximately $300,000.
“It is a significant amount of money,” MacEachern agreed.
There is no admission for the Jingle Bell Frolic, while each visitor also receives a free ticket for a chance to win a door prize.