A steady stream of volunteers inside the Florence Filberg Centre spent Christmas morning packing hot turkey dinners in beautifully-designed bags (courtesy Mark R. Isfeld School art students), then loading them into vehicles where volunteer drivers distributed them throughout the Comox Valley.
The 41st annual Earl Naswell Community Christmas Dinner was the most successful to date, with its namesake no doubt smiling down on the event.
Mr. Naswell started the community dinner in 1982, when he reached out to local businesses to help serve a small group of about a dozen friends, who had no other plans for Christmas Day.
That original table of 12 has grown every year. Prior to COVID, the meal was being held at the Filberg Centre, where as many as 250 people would come in for a full-service Christmas turkey dinner.
In 2020, the pandemic forced a change of plans, and the event became a delivery service meal. Little did organizers know at the time how many more people they would reach.
This year – the third year of delivery-only service – a record 725 meals were distributed, all within a two-hour window.
Sunday’s delivery was but the crescendo of a massive undertaking by the volunteers.
From the time the doors opened at the Florence Filberg Centre, at 3 p.m. on Dec. 22, the kitchen was abuzz. The turkeys – all 60 of them – along with 125 kilograms of ham, were prepared by a dedicated kitchen staff.
Potato peelers took care of 250 pounds of spuds, while others sliced and diced 120 pounds of carrots, and 140 pounds of brussel sprouts. Peas and cranberries (80 pounds each) rounded out the meals.
(Each take-out bag also contained a dessert tray, a gift bag, and dinner buns or other baking.)
By Christmas morning, about three dozen volunteers helped out on site, with roughly the same number of drivers lining up to have their cars and trucks filled with the bags.
It was one smooth operation.
“So many volunteers, it made life a lot easier,” said co-ordinator Rob James. “The excellent kitchen crew made sure everything went smoothly and everyone had something to do all morning. It couldn’t have gone much better.
“I am so thankful to all the volunteers, and all the corporate sponsors. We had people contacting us for the past month, to see how they could help out. I was turning away volunteers for the past couple of weeks. We wanted to make sure everyone had something to do. Thanks again to the entire community for making this happen again this year.”