Wendy Warshawski, sitting, coordinates the committee that oversees the Community Christmas Dinner. Its membership also includes from left to right in the middle row Clara Knight, Sandra Rafferty, and Isabelle Yoxall, while Patti Sanders represents the Mary Winspear Centre. Donations for the event come from Thrifty Foods represented by store manager Kurtis Francis (left), Save-On-Foods represented by store manager Dave Alexander (right) and Fairway Markets with manager John Bailey missing from picture. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Wendy Warshawski, sitting, coordinates the committee that oversees the Community Christmas Dinner. Its membership also includes from left to right in the middle row Clara Knight, Sandra Rafferty, and Isabelle Yoxall, while Patti Sanders represents the Mary Winspear Centre. Donations for the event come from Thrifty Foods represented by store manager Kurtis Francis (left), Save-On-Foods represented by store manager Dave Alexander (right) and Fairway Markets with manager John Bailey missing from picture. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Sidney’s Community Christmas Dinner celebrates 20th anniversary this year

The dinner attracted more than 300 people to Mary Winspear Centre last year

When the Community Christmas Dinner returns to Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 25, it will mark the 20th anniversary of spreading holiday cheer to the community and beyond.

“To my knowledge, there is nothing else on Christmas Day,” said Wendy Warshawski, coordinator of the volunteer committee that oversees the dinner. “I think the [SHOAL Centre for Seniors] has a dinner in their dining room at night, but nobody has a lunch of this size as far as I know and up until about four years ago, we were the only game in town. There was nothing.”

The dinner itself serves turkey with all the trimmings thanks to donations from Fairway Market, Save-on-Foods and Thrifty Foods in Sidney among other donors. Admission to one of the two sittings — 11:15 a.m and 1:15 p.m — is by donation to cover costs. Call 250-656-7678 for reservations.

When Silver Threads, the future site of the SHOAL Centre for Seniors, held the first dinner in 2000, then-organizers April Andrews, Debbie Seeboth and Jeanette Hughes, had planned for about 100 people.

“They started it out for people who they thought were alone on Christmas Day,” said Warshawski, who has been involved with every dinner since 2001. “That was the whole thrust of it.”

It has since evolved into a broad community event, whose popularity has out-paced the population of Sidney. “The population has grown by three per cent, we grew something like 85 per cent in 12 years,” said Warshawski.

Last year’s dinner drew 326 people in two sittings.

RELATED: Community Christmas dinner in Sidney ensures no one spends holidays alone

“It’s wonderful,” said Warshawski. “It means that it is a very important event to have in Sidney, that a lot of people need somewhere to go on Christmas Day. Or there are a lot of people who would rather not cook and Clara [Knight] does it for them.”

Attendees include single seniors, local realtors who treat some of their customers to a Christmas dinner, young families and older couples, who might not have the energy to cook, she said. “It’s everything, every walk of life.”

This diversity of backgrounds creates a sense of community. “They are seated as they go into the dining room, unless there is a table of eight and they all go in together,” she said. “So you might have a table of eight people, who don’t even know each other, and for the most part they get along just fine.”

RELATED: Peninsula firefighters look to the community for help in giving back

The dinner occupies a special place in Sidney’s packed calendar of events and festivals, one that has resonated beyond the Saanich Peninsula.

“Somebody came [into Sidney] on their power boat and they looked on the Town of Sidney [website] for something to do or something to be open,” said Warshawski. “And there was nothing. None of the restaurants were open back then. So they came up here. They saw us and they joined us.”

It is this sense of community and caring that continues that animates Warshawski and the other volunteers.

“What is most inspiring is the generosity of the people and the businesses in Sidney and having the opportunity to give back,” said Warshawski.

“Christmas dinner would really not be the same without everyone working together and making it our Christmas joy too,” said Clara Knight, kitchen coordinator, who will pay a culinary tribute to the very first dinner by preparing the same Christmas pudding she served during the inaugural edition.

“It’s the same recipe,” she said. “It’s my great-grandmother’s Christmas pudding recipe.”


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Nexii roof panel is lifted during construction of a Starbucks in Abbotsford. Alexzi Building Solutions will be building a manufacturing plant in Langford or North Cowichan to produce the sustainable construction panels. (Photo courtesy of Alexzi Building Solutions)
Langford eyed for facility to make green building alternative to concrete

Langford, North Cowichan possible sites for plant to create sustainable construction panels

Local MP Elizabeth May says the public has a right to know the identity of the company that plans to operate the massive warehouse proposed for Sidney on airport lands but residents who want to stop the project would probably have to go through the courts. (Black Press Media File)
MP Elizabeth May says public has right to know identity of Sidney warehouse operator

Residents wanting to stop the project would probably have to go through the courts, said May

Bukwila by Art Thompson, set at the steps of Lansdowne campus’ Wilna Thomas Cultural Centre, has been welcoming students to campus since 1997. (Photo courtesy of Camosun College)
World-renowned artist’s legacy lives on at Camosun College

Art Thompson made untold contributions toward Indigenous education, art and advocacy

Did you know, according to the CRD, every person produces an average of 185–200 litres of wastewater per day? Here’s where most of it gets treated, at the new wastewater treatment facility at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt. (CRD image)
View Royal signs on to wastewater funding plan

Capital Regional District requesting to borrow up to $34.3 million to upgrade infrastructure

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Island Health has confirmed COVID-19 exposures at Ecole des Deux Mondes in Campbell River on May 4 and 5, and at Mill Bay Nature School in Mill Bay on April 28, 29, 30 and May 3. (Metro Creative photo)
Two new COVID-19 school exposures confirmed by Island Health

Health authority contacting anyone exposed at Ecole des Deux Mondes, Mill Bay Nature School

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Police were on the scene of a fatal shooting in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. government to give more than $8 million for programs to curb gang violence

221 not-for-profit projects led by local governments and school districts among others will receive a one-time grant

Gord Judson steers his log truck down a forest service road, using two-way radio and call signals to mark his position for oncoming traffic. (B.C. Forest Safety Council)
Planning some B.C. wilderness fishing? Don’t catch a log truck

Remote recreation areas bracing for heavy pandemic pressure

Most Read