PHOTOS: Holiday joy abounds at 20th annual Sidney Community Christmas Dinner

Vern England has been Santa Claus for the Sidney Community Christmas dinner for the last five years. He says his favourite part of the seasonal job is bringing smiles to little ones. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Vern England has been Santa Claus for the Sidney Community Christmas dinner for the last five years. He says his favourite part of the seasonal job is bringing smiles to little ones. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Makayla Paul-Belcourt, 3, sits with Santa Claus (Vern England) at the Sidney Community Christmas Dinner Dec. 25. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Makayla Paul-Belcourt, 3, sits with Santa Claus (Vern England) at the Sidney Community Christmas Dinner Dec. 25. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and holiday tunes by local musicians. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and holiday tunes by local musicians. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and some holiday tunes by local musicians, including a ukulele group and the Sunshine Singers. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and some holiday tunes by local musicians, including a ukulele group and the Sunshine Singers. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Lloid and Ronald Harry enjoyed a Christmas lunch with family and friends at the Mary Winspear Centre Dec. 25 during the 20th annual Sidney Community Christmas Dinner. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Lloid and Ronald Harry enjoyed a Christmas lunch with family and friends at the Mary Winspear Centre Dec. 25 during the 20th annual Sidney Community Christmas Dinner. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and some holiday tunes by local musicians, including a ukulele group and the Sunshine Singers. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and some holiday tunes by local musicians, including a ukulele group and the Sunshine Singers. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Ghandi Clandfield and Alyssa Richards donned their best green and red for the 20th annual Sidney Community Christmas Dinner at the Mary Winspear Centre Dec. 25 (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Ghandi Clandfield and Alyssa Richards donned their best green and red for the 20th annual Sidney Community Christmas Dinner at the Mary Winspear Centre Dec. 25 (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and some holiday tunes by local musicians, including a ukulele group and the Sunshine Singers. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and some holiday tunes by local musicians, including a ukulele group and the Sunshine Singers. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and some holiday tunes by local musicians, including a ukulele group and the Sunshine Singers. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)Hundreds came to the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25 for a delicious helping of Christmas dinner and some holiday tunes by local musicians, including a ukulele group and the Sunshine Singers. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Smiling faces, full stomachs and holiday joy filled the Mary Winspear Centre on Christmas Day during the 20th annual Sidney Community Christmas Dinner.

Sidney residents and visitors alike were welcomed to the dinner of turkey with all the trimmings followed by dessert. Two sittings – one at 11:30 a.m. and one at 1:15 p.m. – fed more than 300 thanks to donations from Fairway Market, Save-on-Foods and Thrifty Foods in Sidney, among others.

“So many people come back year after year,” says volunteer coordinator Wendy Warshawski. “It’s like seeing old friends once a year for Christmas.”

RELATED: Sidney’s Community Christmas Dinner celebrates 20th anniversary this year

In 2001 Warshawski joined the task force that puts on the dinner. She says back then, the event was advertised as “a dinner for people who would otherwise be alone.”

That’s still true, she says, but the event also draws families, couples, and all kinds of people.

“Everybody has a story. Some of them are alone and they might feel awkward about coming to a dinner like this, but once they hear that [there is so many], they’re happy to come,” Warshawski says. “We get families, seniors [and] every age you could imagine. Sometimes it’s couples that just don’t want to cook a big turkey.”

The Vancouver Island Regional Library donated more than 400 Sidney/North Saanich branch library cards for this year’s attendees, and community donations of toys and stuffed animals delighted all ages.

Seated as they come in, tables are a mix of people, some filled with strangers. But with hearty meals, festive songs and visits from the event’s long-time Santa Claus, Vern England, the Mary Winspear Centre spent Christmas playing host to one big happy Yuletide family.

RELATED: Flurry of Yuletide activities coming to Sidney



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Willow, a kitten belonging to a Victoria family, was rescued by firefighters on Thursday after she got stuck in a basement drain pipe. (City of Victoria/Twitter)
Victoria kitten stuck in basement drain pipe rescued by firefighters

Willow the cat on the mend, owner feeling ‘enormous gratitude’

(Black Press Media file photo)
Blue-green algae bloom confirmed in Elk Lake, water-based activities not recommended

Blue-green algae can be lethal to dogs, cause health issues for humans

Victoria police arrested a man Jan. 15 after he rammed his minivan into an occupied police vehicle. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria man arrested for ramming minivan into occupied police vehicle

Man caught after fleeing, crashing into cement retaining wall

Mayor Rob Martin and Costa Canna president Phil Floucault cut the ribbon on Colwood’s first cannabis retail store. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Cowichan Tribes’ Costa Canna cannabis store opens in Colwood

Cowichan Tribes has one-year deal to grow, sell cannabis

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests: Greater Victoria teacher union

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

(Black Press Media file photo)
From arts to environment, nominate your West Shore hero

Nominations for the Goldstream Gazette’s Local Hero awards are open to Jan. 15

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Most Read