The kitchen serving line was kept busy for two hours. More than 250 people attended the Earl Naswell Community Christmas Dinner on Dec. 25 at the Florence Filberg Centre in Courtenay. Photo by Terry Farrell

Reflections of a community effort: Earl Naswell Community Christmas Dinner organizer looks back – and ahead to 2020

Submitted by Rob James

Earl Naswell Community Christmas Dinner chair

The Florence Filberg Centre was filled to capacity on Christmas Day, as the 37th Earl Naswell Community Christmas Dinner was served at noon. As the dinner organizers, we would like to extend our thanks to each business and individual that contributed to our cause, allowing the big event to be a huge success again this year. We approach these sponsors every year asking for a donation, and their generosity always gets us in the Christmas spirit!

To the many volunteers that shop and prepare for the meal, cook the turkeys and hams, decorate the hall, play the music, sing carols, serve the dinner, visit with guests, and after all that, stay and help clean up the hall and kitchen, Thank You! We could not do this without you. We always try to make each event better than the last, and everyone that attended agrees that we did it again this year. The free Christmas Day event is a time to enjoy a great meal and the live music, welcoming everyone in the community to come together and share some Christmas spirit.

Now that we are easing into 2020, and already thinking about getting ready for next year we would like to share a few highlights. After the dinner several volunteers shared their experiences of sitting and talking to guests, hearing their stories with both coming to tears over the sense of community that filled the hall. One guest commented how he was moved by how happy the volunteers all were! Another guest had first attended a few years ago, at a particularly tough time in her life. After the event, she was overwhelmed by the generosity and welcoming that she found and it actually had a big positive effect on her life from that day forward. One guest was in tears after Santa provided her a few gifts for her granddaughters. These are just a few of the stories that show how special this event is, Christmas spirit being shared on Christmas Day with many folks that otherwise may not have the opportunity.

Turn the calendar ahead one day, to Boxing Day morning when we delivered our leftover kitchen supplies to the St. George’s Church hall. We saw many familiar faces waiting outside for the warmth and food being prepared in the kitchen by the Sonshine Lunch Club volunteers. It was a stark reminder that Christmas Day and our event comes but once a year, while the need for shelter, warmth and food is never-ending every day for many in our community. In the weeks and hours before our dinner, we receive hundreds of phone calls and emails from people wanting to volunteer at our event. Thankfully we are never short of eager volunteers – we actually do get calls starting in the summer for people looking to help out. Unfortunately, while everyone is welcome to attend the event, we have to graciously turn down many offers of help; we can only gainfully use so many helpers. We even had a few calls the day before the dinner, people wanting to donate frozen turkeys (one was 45 pounds!), but we require them thawed by the 24th when we start cooking. This shows the levels of generosity and Christmas spirit that is flowing in the Comox Valley at the holiday season. There are so many wonderful organizations in the Valley that provide so much at this special time of year: Everybody Deserves a Smile, Sharing the Christmas Spirit Hamper Program, Adopt-A-Grandparent Comox Valley to name just a few. Nearly every church, school and business has adopted a Christmas program to support, and that is fantastic, it is very much needed and appreciated.

We would like to offer this thought for 2020: Let’s keep this Comox Valley Christmas spirit flowing throughout the whole year. We can all follow a simple pay it forward scheme. One idea is to keep a small grocery or coffee shop gift card in your wallet and pull it out when you notice someone that might need a helping hand. Sometimes a simple smile and a talk with someone can make a big difference.

You could also make a regular donation to one of the organizations that do so much year-round to help those in need: Dawn to Dawn, Care A Van, The Salvation Army, Comox Valley Transition Society, or any other of your choice. The Sonshine Lunch Club at St. George’s Church serves lunch Monday through Friday and will always accept donations or you can volunteer to help them out. You can contact Kevin at 250-898-9246 for more information on the Sonshine Lunch Club.

We can do this together.

On behalf of the volunteers and organizers of the Earl Naswell Community Christmas Dinner, Thank you, and have a Happy New Year 2020!

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