Sunday’s Community Christmas dinner marked a major milestone for volunteer organizer Isabelle Impey.
Not only was it the 20th such Christmas dinner she’s helped organize—19 of which were in Prince Albert—it’s also the last. Impey said she’s stepping down from her role after this year’s meal, but it’s been an honour to be a part of the effort.
“I am really glad that we did this,” Impey said during a short break on Sunday. “It’s 20 years for me, and this is my last year. I’ve let a number of people know, including my children.
“I love it, and I love all the friends I’ve met over these many years and the kindness that they’ve shown and the hard work to support my ambition to look after the people in this community, but I’m starting to have health issues, and so it means I need to do something a little different.”
Impey was the driving force behind the annual dinners, which provided toys, camaraderie, and of course, turkey dinners, to Prince Albert’s most vulnerable residents. The dinner relied solely on volunteers, and financial donations from local residents and businesses.
Impey said it’s been wonderful to see the dinner grow year after year.
“The best thing is the friends, the kindness, and the community,” she said. “I love PA. I raised my kids here. It’s been a good community for us, and I see it in the goodness of the people who come. They’ve got good hearts. All they want is to be asked to do something, to help, and they’re right in there. To me, that stands out more than anything else.”
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 PA.
“My late husband said, ‘why are you doing this in Saskatoon when we need it here in PA,’” she remembered. “That was 20 years ago, and we’ve done it for 19 years.”
For Impey, the Community Christmas Dinner has always been a family affair. Her children have always assisted her with the meal by volunteering as often as they can. They credit their father and mother for teaching them the importance of giving back.
“We were blessed as a family, so it’s just our way of giving back,” said Ernest Impey, one of Isabelle’s sons. “Having an awesome mom such as we do, she rallies everybody together, she gets all the volunteers together, and I guess it’s just something to give back to the people who need it most.”
Ernest hasn’t been to every Community Christmas Dinner, but it’s not for lack of trying. He says there are three or four he couldn’t volunteer at due to his job as an RCMP officer. Even on days like Sunday, when he’s in uniform, Ernest still stops by to say hello and offer whatever support he can.
“It’s always an honour to help out mom,” he said. “She’s been good to us. Like I said, we’ve been blessed as a family. We have a pretty strong family. For us to just give it out to other people as well is just the way she is.”
Ernest said Isabelle has discussed stepping down before, but never followed through. He’s convinced this year will be her last year, but said she has a great legacy. He said someone will follow in her footsteps.
“She’s got a good family who surrounds her, and they help her out as well,” he said. “At the end of this one, I’m pretty confident that somebody in her family will pick it up and continue along.”
As for Isabelle, she plans to attend more Community Christmas Dinners in the future, although in a more relaxed role.
“I talked to my children and they’re saying, ‘no, we still want to do something,’ so I’ll let them decide what they want to do,” she said with a laugh. “I’ll just come and tell them they have to give me a rocking chair.”