Free Christmas dinner builds community family

Mary MacKinnon will spend her Saturday afternoon peeling veggies in order to enjoy an evening dinner.

Mary MacKinnon will spend her Saturday afternoon peeling veggies in order to enjoy an evening dinner with “one big community family” of friends.

After a dozen or so dinners under her belt, MacKinnon will likely make new friends and catch up with some old, as volunteers with the Salvation Army Westsong community church cook and serve the annual free community Christmas dinner for anyone looking for festive entertainment, food and companionship.

“I attend because I am a person who loves to be among people,” MacKinnon said. “I also love helping out. I do enjoy the dinner, but it’s more about what I can give towards the dinner.”

That could mean vegetables in preparation, or enjoying a coffee and a chat post-meal.

“There could be a single mom there who’s trying to enjoy a meal and the kids are not co-operating,” she said. “If there’s an elderly person who can’t carry their coffee…”

This year is MacKinnon will make her way from Sooke, where she moved three months ago after 28 years in Langford. That won’t stop her from arriving early to help prepare the meal at Our Lady of the Rosary in Langford.

Last year about 200 people filled the hall on a Sunday eve, said organizer George Kogan, pastor with Salvation Army Westsong community church.

“We’re looking to provide some food for people, some companionship because we know that some people might not require a meal but they might want to come in and get some Christmas cheer,” he said. “We have very generous backing from some of our community partners,”

A band, toys for the kids and a Santa Saxes performance will set the mood.

“A lot of people hold back from going to these functions because they feel it’s for the homeless or people who are on their own, and that’s not the case,” MacKinnon said. “I think it’s for anybody who enjoys the company of other people who otherwise may not have it.”

She sees it as ideal for those distanced physically or emotionally from family, suffering losses or even those simply new to the area and learning where they fit.

“Christmas seems to be a good time to check these things out,” MacKinnon said. “Of course it’s always good to see Santa … It’s very well attended and very much appreciated.”

“Everybody is made welcome,” she said. “It can be a very fun night. It’s a big happy family in the community”

The free dinner is Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. at Our Lady of the Rosary hall in Langford. Registration is not required. To donate to the dinner call 250-474-5967.