The Uu a thluck (Taking Care Of) Community Christmas Dinner is back for 2019, and organizers are hoping to feed at least 400 people this year.
Jeff Cook, Valerie Bellwood and Kimmie MacDonald have all stepped up to organize the dinner again this year, with Brian Calm from Pizza Factory behind the scenes taking care of the cooking. They have spent the past two weeks canvassing businesses and organizations for donations.
This will be the third Uu a thluck (Taking Care Of) dinner. “It started with Brian Calm in 2013,” Cook said. “He started out giving a couple of food hampers away. In 2014 he did a few more hampers. In 2015 he realized there wasn’t going to be a Christmas dinner on Christmas Day (Bread of Life used to do this).”
That’s when Bellwood and MacDonald became involved along with sister Cheryl and mother Marilyn. In 2015 the quintet served 200 meals out of Calm’s restaurant, Pizza Factory.
Cook joined the team in 2017. That’s when they decided to offer the dinner every second year. It is a big endeavour to plan the dinner, MacDonald explained.
“It helps with the amount of donations we get every two years instead of every year.”
“We decided to have our dinner between 1–4 p.m. so it gives volunteers time to have dinner with their families,” Cook said.
Doors open at 12 p.m. and food will start to be served at 1 p.m.
The hard work happens on Christmas Eve. Calm closes his business that day and his staff prepare food and cook what they can a day ahead of time. His staff then come to the dinner on Dec. 25 and volunteer their time running food back and forth from the restaurant and serving food.
This year Hertel Meats has donated 120 kilograms of ham products. Organizers have a long list of sponsors who have donated everything from food products to cash. Larry Spencer of Probyn Log Ltd. donated $1,000 despite the hardships of the logging industry at the moment, for example.
Donations will also go toward providing a small gift for every person who attends the dinner, and especially kids of all ages. Unwrapped gifts are appreciated, Cook said, and can be dropped off at Benjamin Moore Alberni Colour Corner on 10th Avenue at Roger Street. Pet food is also on the wish list.
The dinner goes beyond simply feeding people, the organizing trio agreed. “It’s the community of Port Alberni,” says Bellwood.
“This wouldn’t be possible without the generous sponsors, donators and volunteers,” MacDonald said.
Calm loses money by closing his restaurant on Christmas Eve, but he does it to serve his community, Cook said. Last dinner he cooked 23 turkeys and six hams.
MacDonald said she has personal reasons for volunteering with the dinner, and she thanks her employer for allowing her the time to put into this biennial event. “The first one I did I was a single mom and struggled. I had to use Salvation Army and food hampers for Christmas.
“Now that I’m in a better place I feel like I can help.”
The Salvation Army will provide free transportation to the Christmas dinner this year starting at noon at one of the following bus stops: Third Avenue and Argyle Street at 12 p.m., Third Avenue and Napier Street at 12:05 p.m., and at the bus stop at 10th Avenue and Redford Street at 12:10 p.m. The shuttle will start bringing people back to the same bus stops, leaving Alberni Athletic Hall at 3:30 p.m.
For more information or to arrange donations, please contact one of the following:
• Jeff Cook (phone 250-735-1772 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)
• Valerie Bellwood (phone 1-250-240-4598 or e-mail email@example.com)
• Kimmie MacDonald (phone 250-731-3997 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)
Food donations can be dropped off at Pizza Factory (4740 Sixth Avenue) or if non-perishable food or gift items, at Benjamin Moore/ Alberni Colour Corner Ltd. (4310 10th Avenue). Organizers will be putting together packages for people to take with them and are collecting toiletries for men and women, socks, toques, mittens or gloves and tarps.