When the annual Prince Albert Community Christmas Dinner returned to in-person seating, organizer Isabelle Impey made it a priority to get as many people as possible gathered at St. Mary High School.
That meant ending one of the dinner’s long-standing traditions: delivering meals to residents who couldn’t make it to St. Mary’s themselves. Impey said they wanted to get people out of their houses, and this was the quickest way to do it.
“The people who called, we said, ‘we’ll provide a ride. We want you to come and sit with us and visit with us and talk to us, because you need to get out of your home,’” Impey said during a break in the action on Christmas Day. “And that’s what’s happened.”
Impey said she was worried about the mental health of Prince Albert residents who rarely left their homes during the COVID lockdowns. She wanted people to start socializing again, and she said the Christmas Dinner has been successful at doing that. Giving people a good meal is almost a bonus.
“They come, and they’re so much happier that they did come, even though it’s difficult for a lot of them to leave home at this point,” she said. “You see the need for us to do that. We’re social beings—human beings—and they’ve missed a lot of that.”
That’s not to say Sunday’s meal wasn’t up to the dinner’s high standards. Residents who gathered at St. Mary High School had a chance to eat turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, dressing, and all the fixings.
Santa’s Toy Room also returned, so every child who attended the Christmas dinner could have a gift to go home with.
Impey credited the many volunteers who came on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to help with the event. She said there was no doubt so many would return after cancelling in-person meals the last two years.
“It was incredible, the number of volunteers who came, and they’re saying ‘it’s so good that we can come out again and do this,’ and it was really joyful,” Impey explained. “Then today, again, we had lots of people who have come and it seems so easy because there’s so many hands. Everybody wants to do something.
“They just walk in and take charge and get to work. It’s so nice and wonderful.”
Impey said the return of the Christmas Dinner shows just how important it is for Prince Albert residents to keep caring for one another. She’s hopeful it will never stop again, even temporarily.
“What this means for the community is the need for us to continue to care one another,” she said. “If we don’t do that, we’re going to lose more and more people.”