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Meal a real Christmas treat 0

By Roberta Bell, Orillia Packet & Times

From left, Peter McNabb, Terry Mears, Rev. Terry Bennett, Bev Patterson, Ted Patterson, Matt Thrift and Randy Ducker enjoy Christmas dinner at St. James’ Anglican Church Tuesday afternoon.

From left, Peter McNabb, Terry Mears, Rev. Terry Bennett, Bev Patterson, Ted Patterson, Matt Thrift and Randy Ducker enjoy Christmas dinner at St. James’ Anglican Church Tuesday afternoon.

Jodi Cox cooked her first turkey this Christmas — for a group of strangers.

“I just felt like I could do something,” Cox said Christmas morning at St. James’ Anglican Church, where more than 150 people gathered for a holiday meal.

“To be here and actually share Christmas Day with a bunch of people you don’t know, it just makes Christmas more Christmasy.”

Cox, who attended for the first time with her parents, was one of 45 volunteers who contributed to the preparation and serving of the church’s annual noontime feast, which this year consisted of 16 turkeys, 70 pounds of potatoes, 65 pounds of carrots, dressing, green peas, gravy and pie with ice cream for dessert.

“It’s one of the rare days you can have so many different people from different walks of life and everybody’s treated as equals,” said Cox, who was “amazed” by the number of people who came out.

“Normally, we would be having Christmas dinner at home, but our son had to work today,” explained her mother Mae, a parishioner at St. James’.

They changed their plans to have it Boxing Day instead so he could be there.

“This is a different Christmas, but it’s one in a lot of way, I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” she said.

The family sat with a handful of former residents from Couchiching Jubilee House, where Mae volunteers.

After she finished her own meal, she dropped off takeout to those who couldn’t make it.

There are some who are so financially strapped they wouldn’t be able to have a Christmas dinner otherwise, said Rev. Terry Bennett.

“By the time they pay their rent, heating and lighting, they have $150 to live on,” he said, adding even if they could afford to buy a turkey or ham, they might not have an oven to prepare it in.

Bennett brought the idea of Christmas Day dinner with him to St. James’ when he arrived eight years ago.

“If you’re by yourself, it can be a very quiet, lonely time,” he said, noting there aren’t many people out and about.

The dinner was a hit from the get-go.

“People wanted to put meaning back into Christmas,” said Bennett, who has seen more volunteers than he knew what to do with in years gone by.

Bennett, whose father missed four Christmases fighting overseas during the Second World War, has long advocated people spending the holiday with those they love and care about.

He knows, for the most part, everybody who attended the dinner and considers them friends.

“The gifts don’t make the difference, but the people do,” he said.

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