Oct
29
2016
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Knights of Columbus Christmas Dinner: Where Everyone is Welcome

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This year marks the 21st year that the annual Community Christmas Dinner is being held in Fort McMurray and the 11th year that the Knights of Columbus have been the organizing body behind the scenes. 

Chair of the event, Mike Daley says that preparations are already underway, and some of the main sponsors have already signed on for another year. 

“It’s a wonderful community event, and in the past, we have had people from all walks of life join the non-denominational event. Everyone from people who are away from home for their first Christmas, to oilsands workers who were not able to get home, people in hotels alone at Christmas, and of course those less fortunate or homeless come to eat and be around others,” said Daley. 

Everyone who comes through the door is treated as a guest, whether they are volunteering or there to have what could be their only Christmas meal, everyone receives a name tag when they arrive. 

Daley set the scene for the event. 

“People start arriving around 8a.m. on Christmas morning, and some will start decorating, and some will start preparing vegetables. We have several big boxes of decorations, and every year it is different with how people set things up. And as the day goes on, it’s like magic, everything, and everyone just comes together and we feed close to 500 people,” said Daley. 

Entertainment is also part of the event, and Daley would like to encourage anyone who plays an instrument to drop by to play a song or two as it always adds to the festive feel of the day. 

“And at the end of the day, if there are any leftovers or if people drop off gifts, those things are all brought to the Salvation Army and Marshall House. If there is more than enough, we have included places like Unity House or the Centre of Hope in the past as well,” said Daley. 

The event is held at Father Turcotte School, and given the hard year that Fort McMurray has had, the Knights are unsure of the turnout that they will have this year, but they are thinking that the number may be up. 

“We really want everyone to feel welcome, it’s been a hard year, and maybe a family will have money for some gifts, but not for a big meal, or maybe someone who is new to town and on their first job is looking to make some connections in their new community. We never turn anyone away, and if you want to come volunteer, everyone is welcome to join in whatever way they can as well,” added Daley.

Over 500 pounds of turkey needs to be cooked, and around 50 pounds of ham, and for the last six years the Knights are extremely grateful that the lead sponsor, Noralta Lodge takes on the task of purchasing and cooking all that, and they donate things like gravy as well. Volunteers often end up prepping about 400 pounds of potatoes and 200 pounds of vegetables. McMurray Serv-U Expediting brings the hot items in thermal containers from Noralta, and Sparksman Transportation has helped out with a shuttle that goes to Centre of Hope, Marshall House, and Salvation Army to bring people who need a ride to the event. The shuttle usually starts around 10 a.m. and continues until mid-afternoon. 

“For volunteers, we need people in the kitchen of course to prep and plate everything, but we also need people to provide entertainment, and clean the tables. And of course, if people can only come for an hour in the morning, that is great, we have one group that usually can only come in the afternoon, so they help with the clean up, so if you come in the morning by no means to you have to stay all day. Even if you just want to come and sit and have a cup of tea with someone who might not have anyone to talk to, even that’s great. I’ve never heard anyone who has come to participate leave saying it was a bad experience. You cannot leave without being impacted in some positive way,” said Daley. 

If anyone wants to volunteer, you can contact Mike Daley at 780-799-3777, or you can go to the school on December 25th. 

VERNA MURPHY

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