Christmas Eve Community Celebration exceeds all expectations

Organizers and volunteers pose for a photo following the 2019 Christmas Eve Community Dinner at the Union Centre. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Food Bank was the big hero at the second annual Community Christmas Eve Celebration on Dec. 24.

Organizers estimated that more than 400 people attended the event last December, a number well above their expectations. With such a large crowd, food quickly ran out, but a few local residents and the Prince Albert Food Bank stepped up with last minute donations of perishable food items to make sure everyone left with something.

“Based on our experience last year we upped our numbers for food and for hot chocolate and for coffee and tea, and we were quite bowled over when at 1:30 p.m. we ran out of food,” Coun. Evert Botha said with a chuckle. “It’s is a good problem to have I suppose. Once I saw the supplies starting to run a little bit low I had, I don’t want to say meltdown, but I was really, really concerned that we were going to be done by 2 p.m. … so yes, the PA Food Bank definitely saved the day.”

Botha and fellow councillor Charlene Miller organized the event, with the help of a devoted group of donors and volunteers. In addition to the food, volunteers handed out roughly 250 bags of toiletries and personal items.

“The need is very great,” Miller said. “What Evert and I witnessed was a great need in our community for a lot of things, especially during the holiday season. It was good to give, and good to have stuff to give.”

“The need is great and it seems to be increasing every single year,” Botha added. “I have the utmost respect for the Food Bank or the Salvation Army, and the many people who support organizations such as that, because use of their services is just on the rise.”

Both city councillors thanked the small army of volunteers who came out to pour tea, serve food and hand out gift bags. Enthusiasm is high for another Christmas Eve celebration next year, they explained. In fact, some volunteers have already started planning.

“I actually had a lady phone me who donated quite a bit, and she’s already started knitting scarves, so yes, she’s right on top of things,” Miller said with a chuckle. “She’s better at it than I am.”