By ALAN SHACKLETON
Those in need of food or company this Christmas Day are invited to a free dinner at Calvary Baptist Church on Main Street.
The annual event has been taking place for more than 20 years and is a long-standing tradition in the community, explained Rita Deverell who is one of the organizers.
“One of its real appeals is that it is on Christmas Day, not two weeks before,” she said.
The dinner, which starts at 3 p.m. on Dec. 25, usually draws about 100 or so people who gather for the meal and some fellowship.
“Some of the people who come are hungry and some are community members who have no other particular plans for Christmas and come for the company,” said Deverell.
“It’s entirely open to everyone to attend. It’s free, and we have Santa, carols and gifts,” she added.
Deverell said the church will accept donations with gratitude at the dinner if offered, and over the years some of those donations have been very generous, but the event is free for all to attend.
“We try to ensure that everyone who attends gets a gift.”
Funding for the meal and the gifts comes from the Calvary church community and private donations, some of which are quite substantial and made by area residents who wish to remain anonymous, said Deverell.
About 20 volunteers do their part to prepare the meal and events around it, said Deverell.
For years, the cooking was mostly done by volunteer Marlene Ronson. She died two years ago, but her husband Don and son Shawn have continued the family tradition and they will be doing the bulk of the cooking for this year’s dinner.
Deverell said that the appeal of the dinner at Calvary is for many it feels as if they are enjoying a Christmas dinner as a guest at someone’s home.
“When the spirit is moving properly, it is not like a handout of a meal. It is like you have been invited into someone’s home space for Christmas dinner, and are being looked after by them,” she said.
Along with the many volunteers who come out to the church on Christmas Day to help the meal run smoothly, Deverell said there are a core of six people who work throughout the year to keep the tradition of the meal at Calvary running.
Calvary Baptist Church is located at 72 Main St., between Gerrard Street and Kingston Road. The dinner starts at 3 p.m. on Dec. 25. Those wishing to attend are asked to enter the church through the back doors off the parking lot on Benlamond Avenue.
For more information, visit the church’s website at www.calvary-baptist-church.ca