By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on December 27, 2023.
For 39 years, the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization has fed the needy and the lonely, people unable to cook for themselves as well as police and emergency responders who had to work on Christmas Day.
The annual Christmas dinner served up by the downtown organization has become a Christmas tradition, attracting legions of volunteers who donate their time working on different shifts to give people a meal on Christmas Day.
They, along with LSCO staff, sacrifice their time for those who can’t spend Christmas with family or don’t have family, people who live on the streets or can’t afford to make a dinner for them and their families.
On Monday, the LSCO dining room was decorated festively for the holidays with dozens of tables set up in three seating areas as the organization hosted its first in-person dinner since 2019.
Executive director Rob Miyashiro, along with cooking staff and volunteers, was at the facility early making sure the tables were set literally and figuratively to give guests a real Christmas experience.
Miyashiro expected about 600 people would be served at the LSCO with another 400 meals being delivered to shut-ins, Meals on Wheels clients, police and EMS and the Soup Kitchen which was getting 150 meals for its clientele.
The first shift of volunteers were on hand well before doors opened at 10 a.m. for diners, filling various roles from seating patrons, to serving them or acting as delivery drivers.
An enormous amount of work goes into preparing the meal with most of it done well before doors opened. About 350 pounds of breast and dark turkey meat was cooked in advance, said the LSCO’s Travis Eakett. Heaping containers of vegetables and potatoes were also prepared in the kitchen along to serve with all the trimmings including cranberry sauce.
Among those working the early shift was first-time volunteer Vonda Giroux, who was making her event debut in the kitchen.
“I enjoy helping others,” said Giroux who thought volunteering for the dinner would be a good way to help.
Neil Jorgensen, another rookie volunteer, was also in the kitchen helping out early. Jorgensen said the event is important to the community “so I’m willing to come and support them.”
Also volunteering were Al and Carola Friesen, who have helped out for six years.
Al Friesen says the couple considers themselves “very fortunate and blessed” and with little family of their own in the area here for Christmas, they enjoy helping with the community endeavour.
The event is a community funded event with costs of about $12,000 to stage.
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