The Christmas season is synonymous with joy and warmth but it can also herald in one of the hardest times of the year for some people.
The celebrations and family gatherings that take place in abundance for most people can underline the isolation of those who do not have family to celebrate with.
But for anyone who could find themselves alone on Dec. 25, the Royal Canadian Trail Legion and the annual community Christmas dinner has a solution: join them.
The free dinner held in the Trail Legion Hall comes complete with turkey and all of the trimmings, and around 125 other people to socialize with.
For a lot of the people that have come out to the dinner in the past, they don’t have family in the area, said the dinner’s organizer and creator, Glenda Reilly.
“It gives (people) somewhere to go to have a nice Christmas dinner and a little bit of socialization for the day,” she said.
“This time of the year can be a tough time of the year for a lot of people, so we just like to put it out there that this is going on. So if you don’t have anybody in the area, come on out and spend a couple of hours and have dinner with us.”
The dinner is open to anyone. Families are welcome but the dinner is mostly focused on single people who are by themselves, and elderly people who are on their own, said Reilly.
The dinner started years ago when a group of Legion members were sitting around and, for varying reasons, they had nothing to do for Christmas and were alone, Reilly recalled. They thought if there were six people here there would be more out there that were alone, and the idea of the dinner was born.
Five volunteers worked all day in the kitchen to pull off that first dinner, and then set it up and served it to 45 people. Now the dinner has around 15 volunteers, organized with military precision on specific duties: serving, cooking, set up and clean up.
The crew comes in early on Dec. 25 and prepares and cooks the turkey and vegetables, preparing everything for later in the day. Then the set up and serving crews roll in later in the afternoon, serving up the dinner at 5 p.m.
Two hours later it’s all over.
“A lot of the volunteers are people who don’t have family in the area and are on their own as well,” said Reilly. “It gives them something to do for the day and they feel like they are giving back. And there are a few people who want to give back to what Christmas is supposed to mean.”
The dinner’s attendance is capped at 125. Last year they served over 130 people with some to-go meals delivered for people who were shut in.
Although 95 people have already registered for the dinner, there are some spots open. However, it is asked if people either phone or come by the Legion and pick up a ticket so the actual numbers of people who are coming is known..
“We would just like people to let us know they are coming, and if, for whatever reason, they aren’t we can fill that spot in with someone else,” Reilly said.
People can contact the Royal Canadian Trail Legion at 364-1422 to register for free tickets. The Legion is located at 2141 Columbia Ave.