Luke Edwards, Niagara This Week
Community dinner at Port High in 15th year
Those who would otherwise be alone on Christmas will once again have a place to go this year to share some friendship and have a delicious meal.
On Christmas Day, Port Colborne High School will play host to a community Christmas dinner. The dinner is in its 15th year and will feature ham, turkey and all the trimmings, said Jack O’Neil, one of the organizers.
“If you’re alone, and have no one, come on out. It’s not charity, it’s family,” he said.
The dinner is free to all, and will also feature Christmas music and a gift table for all in attendance. Guests will receive a ticket, and throughout the afternoon tickets will be drawn, with the holder getting a chance to go up and pick out a gift. O’Neil said the dinner is meant for anyone and everyone. Whether you’re an elderly person living by yourself, a young person on your own, or just someone who can’t afford your own Christmas dinner, all are welcome.
When they started 15 years ago O’Neil said they had about 65 people out. Now they get around 250 people, creating a warm and cheerful atmosphere.
“We want them to be happy, sit, listen to the music and enjoy the company,” he said, noting they usually get a good mix of young and old.
O’Neil said the dinner is a true community event, citing the numerous volunteers who give up their Christmas to make sure the dinner runs smoothly. The kitchen crew starts working the day before, getting the meal ready and are in the kitchen first thing Christmas morning. Volunteers also help with the serving - guests are now served a sit-down style instead of a buffet - and with the cleanup afterwards.
For those shut-ins who can’t make it out to the event, the Port Colborne Fire Department volunteers its time and makes meal deliveries to households. Last year they sent out 38 meals.
Port Colborne Taxi offers free rides for anyone in the city to and from the dinner. O’Neil said the drivers are happy to do it, both to help out those less fortunate and because organizers reward them with a meal.
“They (taxi drivers) line up at the door,” he said with a laugh.
To show their support to the local police force, they also send enough Christmas meals to feed all the cops working on Christmas.
O’Neil said it’s incredibly important to make sure everyone has somewhere to go and someone to be with on Christmas. It can be a lonely time for those who live alone, and can be a time for great depression for many. In fact, suicide rates double among seniors during Christmas, he said.
There’s no registration required and guests can just show up to the school, entering through the Fielden Avenue entrance. For more information call O’Neil at 905-834-9289 or Larry Olm at 905-834-6409. For rides call Port Colborne Taxi at 905-835-2424.