It looked like there would be no Community Christmas Dinner in Prince Albert this year but then a Christmas miracle happened.
Isabelle Impey the longtime organizer of the Community Christmas Dinner was able to put together a delivery and take-out version for 2023, which took place at the PAGC Cultural Centre, the former Parkland Hall on Christmas Day.
Impey had planned on retiring after the 2022 version, which was hosted at Ecole St. Mary High School.
Impey explained that she was getting phone calls from loyal volunteers saying that nobody had stepped up to take her place.
“And I said ‘Well, I guess we have to do something’. And I said, ‘I can’t spend a good Christmas knowing we have all these people out there that are hungry’. And I had hoped someone younger would take over because well I’m 80,” Impey said.
”I still have the energy to do things but I wouldn’t do it without all of these volunteers. If they hadn’t called, I wouldn’t have stepped up,” she explained.
“I had said I was retiring. So this is what retiring is all about.”
They had a day of preparation on Christmas Eve and Impey thanked Safeway and owner Rahual Kaushik for helping with the use of ovens to cook the turkeys.
“Rahual is wonderful. He’s really community-minded and so we have that support,” Impey said.
She said that people have come forward with donations to cover the bills and the Salvation Army donated takeout containers and potatoes for the hundreds of meals that would be delivered.
While Impey has overseen numerous Community Christmas Dinners, the first one wasn’t actually in Prince Albert. Instead, Impey helped organize a similar event in Saskatoon, but her family members soon redirected her attention back to Prince Albert.
“We prepared all the food in PA we went to Saskatoon at The White Buffalo Centre and made a meal there for people and they came and you know, it was wonderful we were able to do it. And it was a request by a friend in Saskatoon,” she said.
“My late husband said, ‘Why do you want to go to Saskatoon when we have the same problem in PA’, and so this is his legacy,’ she remembered.
For Impey, the Community Christmas Dinner has always been a family affair. Her children have always assisted her with the meals by volunteering as often as they can. This year was different but Impey said that the children said it would not be the same.
She said that her son Const. Ernest Impey of the RCMP would be stopping in.
“ He comes over here to make sure that everything is okay just to be safe.”
Impey said that she got the PAGC Cultural Centre by calling the PAGC and talking to Rick Sanderson. After a meeting at the PAGC, she got approval.
“So Rick called me and said you’ve got Parkland Hall,” she said.
She needs the venue for three days including prep, the meal and cleanup Yeah.
“Clean up tomorrow, which is not going to be a big job because they are keeping everything very clean,
There were several vehicles on deliveries including people delivering to people on the streets and to people in senior complexes.
Even on preparation day on Christmas Eve, there was a full house.
“We had one family of five that carved all the turkeys. And today would be more because they told them to come around noon,” she said.
She said typically she would prepare in early fall and she had a room in her garage that was full of items used to prepare the dinner.
“And I said I’m going to donate this to the Salvation Army,” Impey said.
She said that once word got out they had enough money to pay the bills which she would usually do over several months
“I didn’t have time to go looking for money and we got enough to feed several 100 and we will,” Impey said.
She will also be paying forward to the youth who now use the PAGC Cultural Centre.
“And whatever is left, we’ll leave for them to use here as well because the youth come in every day. So nothing will go to waste,” she said.
“And I love the help that we get. You know the people that are in the spirit of Christmas they want to be there, they want to help and it’s certainly showed up today,” she said.
She explained that they had received several messages from seniors high rises and would be delivering a turkey, bags of potatoes and pastries for Christmas dinner. Impey said that she had received several thanks by text messages.
She was most thankful for all of the volunteers.
“I think people will be looked after. And I’m very proud of all our helpers or my elves,” Impey said.