Sunday April 20, 2014

Christmas dinner for all

Keith Anderson

Christmas spirit is alive and well in Kamloops as a large number of volunteers served up a traditional turkey dinner to at least 150 of the city's less fortunate.

A hundred people filled the New Life Mission's dining hall within minutes of the doors opening Christmas Eve. Outreach manager Terry Butcher expected he would need overflow seating to accommodate everyone.

Among the diners were Jennifer Ross, Henry Bowman and their nine-month-old son, Anthony. The couple moved from Saskatchewan a year ago because Bowman has family here.

The situation has changed, however, said Ross. With money tight, they needed to take advantage of the mission's turkey dinner.

"We just decided to come down and enjoy a small family dinner," said Ross. "At least we get to have a good turkey dinner."

They enjoyed the turkey and fixings and the hospitality of the mission staff and volunteers, she said. One of the volunteers had a present and chocolate for Anthony.

Ross said they spent Christmas day enjoying each other's company.

"That's what's important," she said, adding the family loves Kamloops and doesn't intend to move.

More than 20 volunteers worked hard prepping and serving the food. For some, this was a return engagement. For Emily Clare, 17, and her mom, Fiona, the dinner was a first.

Clare, who intends to work for a non-profit, has wanted to volunteer with the mission for years, she said. She and her mom came with friends to prep the food on Monday. When the friends couldn't return on Christmas Eve, Clare and her mom took their place.

"It's fun," said Clare.

Her mom agreed, adding the cook, Dieter Jennen, made an excellent meal and came with a sense of humour.

Butcher appreciates being able to provide a nice meal for those in need, but the number who attended Christmas Eve worried him. He said too many people are struggling to make their way.

"What it says is, as a society, we're not who we think we are," he said. "It's really kind of a mess that so many people would have to depend on social agencies for the basics of food and clothing."

The JUMP program hosted a Christmas Day dinner for families and the homeless at the Mount Paul United Church in North Kamloops.

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