Annual Community Christmas Dinner a place where all are welcome

Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald A volunteer spoons hot gravy over stuffing and mashed potatoes at the annual Community Christmas Dinner. More than 100 volunteers came together to make the event possible.

When Christmas day rolls around, some people brace themselves to feed a few dozen family members.

But when December 25 comes by for Isabelle Impey, it means it’s time to feed several hundred.

Impey is the coordinator of the annual Prince Albert Community Chrirstmas Dinner. For 15 years, she has been the head organizer for one of P.A.’s most heart-warming traditions.

“It was one of my hair-brained schemes 15 years ago,” Impey laughed Monday afternoon, fresh from feeding the needy with the leftovers of the annual feast.

“Actually my family started it 15 years ago. It started very small and you know so the whole family got involved.”

The first year the family travelled to the White Buffalo in Saskatoon and fed 300 people.

The event has certainly grown since then. More than 2,200 people ate Sunday at St. Mary High School.

While that number appears lower than last year’s 2,400, Impey said the number of people fed by the leftovers Monday hadn’t been added to that total yet.

The hungry, homeless and needy families have more food delivered to them on Boxing Day. Including their Christmas Day visits, the feast feeds some people three times – twice the day of and once the next day.

That’s a lot of food.

And while the facilities at St. Mary – with a convection oven that can take two trays, another two traditional ovens in the school kitchen, and the appliances in the home ec room – are ideal for organizers, they get a lot of outside help.

This year Travelodge and Safeway stepped up, each offering their space to cook the turkeys required to feed the masses.

The 2016 feast had an extra treat.

On top of the bird, the potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, bread and stuffing, a $1,500 donation from Duane Braaten allowed the organizers to get ham in addition to the traditional turkey.

The dinner is more than just a meal – donations from other groups such as the Town of Shell Lake, the Northern Lights Casino, SIGA, and a CTV-Parkland Ambulance partnership (to name just a few), the event had blankets, hats and mitts to give away, as well as a room packed with toys for the children.

As Impey explained, parents aren’t allowed in the toy room. It’s a place kids can go to pick out whatever they want, while grabbing a bag of candy on the way out.

Of course it takes more than toys, blankets and a mountain of food to put on a feast for a few thousand.

For more on this story, please see the Dec. 28 subscription-based print or e-edition of the Daily Herald.