ANTIGONISH - The 10th anniversary of a Christmas Day community dinner in Antigonish was a milestone one.
Almost 200 people gathered at St. James United Church on the holiday for nourishment – both of the body and soul.
“It went very well – there was a wonderful turnout,” organizer Cary Connors said, describing the celebration as a “beautiful afternoon.” She noted diners were of all ages and from all over Antigonish town and county.
“I think everyone loved having the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful meal, create community and build relationships,” Connors added. More than 50 volunteers – ranging from teenagers to seniors – pitched in to help prepare, serve and clean-up a delectable turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
“They were amazing,” Connors said, adding everyone did “whatever was needed.”
The joyous celebration Dec. 25 was the latest course in a delicious tradition that launched in 2009 – a creation of Betty and Carolyn Webber. The mother-daughter duo’s family gathered for Christmas dinner on Boxing Day. With their Christmas Day open – and the knowledge that many people were alone on that occasion, they decided to put together the first gathering.
With help from several volunteers, the Webbers fed 60 or so people, while fashioning – more broadly – a community event that has become more than just a meal; it is a celebration of the closeness of the Antigonish community.
Connors talked about how more and more people continue to enjoy the experience of being a part of something “bigger than themselves,” having the opportunity to share the day with friends, both old and new, and the true experience of community.
“It has come to mean so much too so many people,” she said.
Connors noted “there were so many who just came out to volunteer or experience the camaraderie.”
She said there were a variety of stories, when it comes to why people attended, including couples whose “children weren’t coming home,” or newcomers to Antigonish who wanted to expand their network.
Connors described the support, once again, that businesses, organizations and community members provided as “phenomenal.”
While Sodexho Food Services staff at St. F.X. continued their tradition of providing time to cook the turkeys, volunteers also provided – and prepared – a variety of vegetables, including potatoes.
“We are humbled by the outpouring of generosity,” Connors said.
With donations – or from monies raised – there was plenty of rolls, pies and punch ingredients, including ginger ale, Sprite, cranberry juice and frozen juices.
“There were so many desserts,” Connors noted, with a laugh.
She said “there was more than enough food,” while reiterating there was so much “generosity” from those who contributed.
Any leftovers found a good home, including the Tuesday and Thursday hot meal program at St. James United Church, while many Christmas Day dinner visitors were able to take home a doggy bag.
“We also had several take-away meals,” Connors said, noting volunteers made deliveries to people who were ill or could not make the event. She added “nothing went to waste.”