Preparations underway for annual Christmas dinner

Herald file photo. Community Christmas Dinner volunteers take a well-deserved break during the 2018 dinner at St. Mary High School. The dinner returns to the Christmas calendar on Sunday for the first time since 2019.

One of Prince Albert’s most ambitious community efforts is gearing up for another year.

On December 25 hundreds of people will come through the doors at St. Mary High School for the annual community Christmas meal. It’s the 16th year the event has been hosted, and it has grown each year, feeding over 2,000 in 2018.

“I don’t expect it’s going to be any different this year because the hunger out there is certainly greater,” said Isabelle Impey. She’s coordinated the supper each year it’s been held.

She said St. Mary is a “wonderful place” to hold the event.

“I love doing it. It’s a lot of work but at the end of the day, the payoff is fantastic. I love seeing the same people again who come every year to help out. There are so many heartwarming stories.”

The dinner isn’t just for those who can’t afford their own. It’s also meant for those who might be alone at Christmas.

“We want them to come and join us, spend time with us,” Impey explained.

“We would welcome them. We do rides, pickups and deliveries as well to the folks who can’t come out and join us.”

In addition to the meal, there is a Santa’s workshop for the kids. There are also door prizes people can take home.

Last year, 264 volunteers helped out either the day before or the day of. Some have been coming year after year. Already, people are getting in touch to see what they can do to help.

“It’s a wonderful community response,” Impey said. “That sits well with me in terms of where people are at in our community.”

Some of the volunteers are younger, she said, sharing a story about something a young volunteer did during last year’s event.

“I had a young fella who overheard a little girl saying Santa didn’t find her house last night,” Impey recalled.

‘The little guy was working in Santa’s shop, and he heard the little girl. By the time the little girl came out she had a bag so big she could barely carry it. It was so beautiful. Those are the stories that are beautiful, these young people are learning about helping others and that in itself is one of the best parts of our Christmas.”

Impey said it’s important that the tradition continues because of what it means to so many people.

“Christmas time is really stressful for many people for a variety of reasons,” she said.

“One is it’s expensive, and lonely if you don’t have other people around you. Mental health issues re big this time of year. We don’t want to quit doing this. We do this because we enjoy doing it but also because we know there’s a great need for it. P.A. has been so tremendous in supporting the Community Christmas Dinner.”

The event runs from 1-5 p.m. on Christmas Day. To arrange for a ride or a food delivery, call 763-7630, 940-4622 or 960-9959. To volunteer or donate, call Isabelle at 980-7794.

Impey had one more message.

“Tell people that we will take good care of them when they come to see us at St. Mary.”