by Alex Wilks/Black Press contributor
The church doors of St. Joseph’s will be open on Christmas Day to anyone who comes knocking for a warm, festive meal.
“It’s surprising how many people find themselves alone at Christmas,” said Deacon Dan Ritchie, an ordained minister at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.
The preparations for the 26th annual dinner have been underway since early November, as parish members and community volunteers have worked tirelessly prepping donated food, drinks and serving supplies.
Many of them will be in the kitchen cooking on Christmas morning while others will be helping distribute the feast with all the holiday fixings, he said.
“We have had many people volunteer from different denominations… and they have a strong desire to come and serve others which ultimately is what Christmas is about,” Ritchie explained.
“Our parishioners cook turkeys and hams [that are then] delivered to the hall kitchen on Christmas Eve where volunteers come in and [prep] vegetables, prepare the hall and make gift boxes for the guests.”
Iris Ramsdale has been volunteering at the event for the past 12 years and is just one of the 100 volunteers who are dedicated to spreading their Christmas cheer.
“Everyone has a busy life, but many take this selfless time to serve those who have nothing but time, but no place to call home,” she added.
The church, as well as the volunteers, are welcoming everyone to bring their appetite and attend an evening full of hearty food, eggnog and Christmas caroling.
“No one is ever excluded,” Ramsdale noted.
“We welcome the marginalized who may experience social exclusion, the homeless, seniors and anyone who may feel lonely and want fellowship.”
As if cooking and serving at the dinner wasn’t enough, the church volunteers are also offering to pick up and drop off any attendees that require transportation to the evening festivities.
“Smiles and laughter are a big part of this Christmas Day event,” she noted.
“Tears of gratefulness are most common as people leave [with] their bellies filled, their hearts warmed and that greatest feeling that someone cares and loves them.”
The parish expects many smiling faces to return this year, with attendees ranging from small children all the way up to seniors. However, the church can always expect to meet new members from the community, she said.
“I see all of whom come to our dinner as needy in some way,” Ramsdale explained.
“They have stories to tell that in most cases melt your heart and cheer your soul. A feeling not soon forgotten, but humbling.”
Ramsdale is a regular attendee at the church, which she considers its parish members to be her second family.
“St. Joseph’s is a very warm, welcoming and giving community of people,” she said.
“I feel blessed to have two loving families.”
The St. Joseph’s Christmas dinner will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 25 inside the church hall (20676 Fraser Hwy.) at 5:30 p.m.
If you’re interested in donating your time, or a frozen turkey, please contact the parish office at 604-534-3303.
“What I feel excited about is bringing all the volunteers together for a common purpose. It is said that you can’t shine a light for others to see without it lighting your own way,” said Ritchie.