More than 200 show up in Courtenay for annual community Christmas dinner

In 1982, Mr. Earl Naswell went door-to-door to local businesses, asking for help to provide a Christmas dinner for himself and about a dozen friends who were, in Naswell’s words, “a bit down on their luck.”

The Comox Valley business community responded in droves, and a tradition was born.

On Monday, that tradition continued.

More than 200 people converged at the Florence Filberg Centre on Christmas Day for the Earl Naswell Community Christmas Dinner – an event organized for everyone who might not otherwise enjoy a full hot Christmas dinner.

“Plates were up a little bit this year,” said event co-ordinator Rob James. “We were up around 250 for the sit-down portion, and we handed out another 200 or so take-out meals. Last year the total, sit down and take-out, was around 400. So there were a lot of meals served this year. I would say we were almost at capacity. There were a few voids, and a few chairs empty, but not many.”

One reason for the increase was the shuttle service offered for the first time in 2017.

First Student Canada supplied a school bus and Ambassador Transport provided a 15-person passenger van, as pick-ups were arranged in Cumberland, Maple Pool Campground, Washington Inn Apartments and the Comox Legion.

“The one that went to Washington Inn picked up I think close to 20, so it definitely helped,” said James. “When I asked, at the beginning of the meal, how many first-timers there were, about 25 or 30 people put their hand up, so word is definitely getting out there.”

James estimated that approximately 50 volunteers showed up on Christmas Day to serve the lunch, and another 25-30 were at the Filberg on Christmas Eve, preparing the meal.

Organizers anticipated an increase in numbers, as extra food was brought in this year.

“We had between 20 and 50 per cent more of each food item this year,” said James. “We had 24 turkeys and 15 hams this year. Previously we had 21 turkeys and 11 hams. We brought in 150 pounds of potatoes, versus 100 last year. Carrots went to 60 pounds, from 40. (Brussels) sprouts went from 50 to 75 pounds.”

Organizers raised a total of approximately $3,500 to spend on the food. As it has been for 35 years, the majority of the money raised came from local businesses.

Santa and Mrs. Claus were on hand, with gifts for the children, and the largest ovation of the day came when Earl Naswell himself was introduced.

The leftover food was passed along to the Salvation Army for its Boxing Day dinner.

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One volunteer exits the kitchen with two meals, while others line up for plates at the Earl Naswell Community Christmas Dinner, at the Florence Filberg Centre on Christmas Day. Photo by Terry Farrell

Santa and Mrs. Claus were on hand at the Earl Naswell Community Christmas Dinner. Photo by Terry Farrell

Earl Naswell (left) and Murray Coulter enjoy their Christmas dinner. Photo by Terry Farrell

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