Wendy Warshawski, sitting, coordinates the committee that oversees the Community Christmas Dinner. Its membership also includes from left to right in the middle row Clara Knight, Sandra Rafferty, and Isabelle Yoxall, while Patti Sanders represents the Mary Winspear Centre. Donations for the event come from Thrifty Foods represented by store manager Kurtis Francis (left), Save-On-Foods represented by store manager Dave Alexander (right) and Fairway Markets with manager John Bailey missing from picture. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

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

The dinner attracted more than 300 people to Mary Winspear Centre last year

When the Community Christmas Dinner returns to Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25, it will mark the 20th anniversary of spreading holiday cheer to the community and beyond.

“To my knowledge, there is nothing else on Christmas Day,” said Wendy Warshawski, coordinator of the volunteer committee that oversees the dinner. “I think the [SHOAL Centre for Seniors] has a dinner in their dining room at night, but nobody has a lunch of this size as far as I know and up until about four years ago, we were the only game in town. There was nothing.”

The dinner itself serves turkey with all the trimmings thanks to donations from Fairway Market, Save-on-Foods and Thrifty Foods in Sidney among other donors. Admission to one of the two sittings — 11:15 a.m and 1:15 p.m — is by donation to cover costs. Call 250-656-7678 for reservations.

When Silver Threads, the future site of the SHOAL Centre for Seniors, held the first dinner in 2000, then-organizers April Andrews, Debbie Seeboth and Jeanette Hughes, had planned for about 100 people.

“They started it out for people who they thought were alone on Christmas Day,” said Warshawski, who has been involved with every dinner since 2001. “That was the whole thrust of it.”

It has since evolved into a broad community event, whose popularity has out-paced the population of Sidney. “The population has grown by three per cent, we grew something like 85 per cent in 12 years,” said Warshawski.

Last year’s dinner drew 326 people in two sittings.

RELATED: Community Christmas dinner in Sidney ensures no one spends holidays alone

“It’s wonderful,” said Warshawski. “It means that it is a very important event to have in Sidney, that a lot of people need somewhere to go on Christmas Day. Or there are a lot of people who would rather not cook and Clara [Knight] does it for them.”

Attendees include single seniors, local realtors who treat some of their customers to a Christmas dinner, young families and older couples, who might not have the energy to cook, she said. “It’s everything, every walk of life.”

This diversity of backgrounds creates a sense of community. “They are seated as they go into the dining room, unless there is a table of eight and they all go in together,” she said. “So you might have a table of eight people, who don’t even know each other, and for the most part they get along just fine.”

RELATED: Peninsula firefighters look to the community for help in giving back

The dinner occupies a special place in Sidney’s packed calendar of events and festivals, one that has resonated beyond the Saanich Peninsula.

“Somebody came [into Sidney] on their power boat and they looked on the Town of Sidney [website] for something to do or something to be open,” said Warshawski. “And there was nothing. None of the restaurants were open back then. So they came up here. They saw us and they joined us.”

It is this sense of community and caring that continues that animates Warshawski and the other volunteers.

“What is most inspiring is the generosity of the people and the businesses in Sidney and having the opportunity to give back,” said Warshawski.

“Christmas dinner would really not be the same without everyone working together and making it our Christmas joy too,” said Clara Knight, kitchen coordinator, who will pay a culinary tribute to the very first dinner by preparing the same Christmas pudding she served during the inaugural edition.

“It’s the same recipe,” she said. “It’s my great-grandmother’s Christmas pudding recipe.”


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Just Posted

Province launches lawsuit over Esquimalt sailing incident that killed teen with disabilities

Gabriel Pollard, 16, died from injuries after being dropped from marine lift in 2018

View Royal kids cruise their complex to raise food, toys for Goldstream Food Bank

Four kids gather more than 60 bags of non-perishable food items and toys

North Saanich Fire Department wins national Movember challenge

Team raises more than urban Edmonton, Toronto firefighters

Crash backs up northbound lanes of Pat Bay Highway

Drive BC warns of heavy congestion along busy route

Saanich police first in B.C. to offer mental health resiliency training

Departments from Oak Bay, Saanich, Central Saanich complete trauma training class

VIDEO: Kenney lays out key demands for meeting with Trudeau

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney aims for clear signs of federal action on two-day Ottawa trip

First Nations want Big Bar landslide cleared ASAP to allow fish passage

Leadership calling for urgent action and resources to remove obstruction on the Fraser

Assessed value of Lower Mainland homes expected to decrease in 2020

Other areas of province may see modest increases over last year’s values

Chilliwack family’s therapy dog injured in hit and run

Miniature pit bull Fifty’s owner is a single mother facing close to $10,000 in vet bills

Cougar destroyed in Penticton area after mauling dog, killing cat

This is the first reported incident with a cougar this year in the Penticton area

Feds not enforcing standards on Hungarian duck imports, B.C. farmer says

‘You have no way of knowing what’s in the bag’

No reports yet of Canadians affected by New Zealand volcano eruption, feds say

Missing and injured included tourists from the U.S., China, Australia, Britain and Malaysia

Vancouver Island blues musician’s mother’s home burglarized and ransacked

David Gogo’s 71-year-old mother has jewelry and artwork stolen in break-in

Dance cancelled after Alberta teacher’s climate lesson prompts online threats

School district near Red Deer cancelled annual family dance due to Facebook comments

Most Read