More than 250 people showed up for the annual Earl Naswell Community Christmas Dinner at the Florence Filberg Centre in Courtenay on Christmas Day.
“Last year we were caught a bit off guard – we were scrambling to set up extra tables – so this year we set up five extra tables [of eight] and we used every single table,” said event co-ordinator, Rob James. “It’s such a community event; people from all walks of life show up, enjoy a meal, enjoy each other’s company, and just share a couple of hours of Christmas cheer.”
The Earl Naswell Christmas Dinner started in 1982, when 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.
The tradition continued Wednesday, with Earl Naswell in attendance – the guest of honour.
The kitchen volunteers started work on Christmas Eve morning, cooking 27 turkeys, 150 pounds of boneless ham, 150 pounds of potatoes, along with stuffing, brussel sprouts and all the trimmings.
Once all the take-out meals were added to the total, James figured there would be close to 500 meals served, all told. And there was minimal waste.
Anything that was not served up will be taken to the soup kitchen.
“They already have all the turkey bones –they really appreciate the food. Everything we have left over goes to them.”
An estimated 100 volunteers took time away from their own holiday activities to ensure the community dinner was successful.
“Some of our volunteers have been coming here for 20 years,” said James.
“You can see how much fun the volunteers have here. It really is something a lot of them look forward to. People do it for their own reasons, but it’s great to see them all help out on Christmas Day.”
Comox Valley guitarist Luke Blu Guthrie brought a full band this year, with Anela Kahiamoe on guitar, Jenn Forsland on the keyboard, Blair Bentley on drums and Shari Campbell playing the flute.
James said not only the volunteers, but the companies that contribute to the event are invaluable to its success.
“Galaxy Motors always gives us a huge donation, and the Comox Legion, Courtenay Legion… there’s too many to list,” he said. “Costco was enormous this year. They donated a large portion of the turkeys, and a large portion of the take-out desserts as well.”
As for James, he will enjoy a few days off, then start planning for the 2020 event.
“I start shopping at the beginning of January, when all the [liquidation] sales happen for Christmas things.”
So no real holiday then?
“Oh, every day is a holiday for me,” he said.