The Christmas Eve dinner at the Salvation Army Gateway of Hope will feed people both physically and socially this year.
Major James Hagglund, the Gateway's executive director, is looking forward to welcoming about 175 people for a huge meal starting at noon on Dec. 24.
"The meal is open to anyone that has a need," Hagglund said.
That includes the community's homeless, the working poor, families, and seniors.
People who have no family or friends with whom to spend the holidays will be welcomed, Hagglund said.
"Sometimes we don't remember that loneliness is a terrible affliction as well," Hagglund said.
Driven by the desire to help, the team of staff and volunteers at the Gateway are getting everything ready.
Major Henri Regamey, the Gateway's chaplain, is arranging for a local church group to come and provide seasonal music. He's also putting together the gifts that will be given out to everyone who attends.
The gifts include Christmas treats, along with some small necessities of life like combs, tissues, and warm gloves. For children who turn up, there will be toys. Envision Financial is sponsoring the gifts again this year.
People are always a bit excited to be given a Christmas gift, Regamey said.
"A lot of them don't get Christmas presents," he said.
While the music and presents will provide the seasonal ambience, the dinner itself will be the central event.
Reg Burks, the director of skills training and one of the key figures in the kitchen, has been putting together the plans for a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings.
"We prepare for probably about 175," said Burks.
That means 20 to 25 large turkeys, 40 litres of peeled potatoes, 40 litres of Brussels sprouts, and quantities of cranberry sauce so vast it's measured by the pail.
"We'll have a big huge steam kettle of gravy," said Burks.
Kitchen workers will be turning up at 7 a.m. to start prepping and getting everything ready for the first meals at noon.
"And we do everything from scratch," Burks said.
All three men noted that one of the key parts of the dinner is that it's a sit-down meal.
Guests arrive, have a place to wash their hands, and then are served at the tables in the dining area. They don't line up to get their dinners handed to them cafeteria style.
It's all part of "a meal with dignity," said Hagglund.
The bulk of the people prepping, cooking, and serving will be volunteers, noted Burk.
There is no problem finding people who want to help out on Christmas, as well as at Thanksgiving and Easter.
"We get a waiting list of people who want to come and help serve on Christmas," said Burks.
The regulars at the Gateway appreciate the fact that the season draws out some new faces - they like the fact that some will enjoy helping others so much, they'll come back to help again on a more regular basis.
While the big holidays see a lot of people coming into the Gateway for a meal, some of their regular clients go home for the holidays.
On any given day, the shelter provides a meal for up to 100 local people, some homeless and others facing challenges from poverty to isolation.
@ Copyright 2013