All that’s left of the Gospel Mission’s Christmas dinner are remnants of its beloved leftover casserole and some fresh memories of another cheerful event.
At the Mission’s annual Christmas dinner, kitchen manager Mandy Phillips said they fed nearly 700 people a total of five turkeys, 16 hams, 500 lbs of potatoes, 50 litres of gravy, eight cases of frozen vegetables, 15 cases of juice, three cases of cranberries, and 600 to 700 desserts.
“That’s all,” said Phillips, as though it didn’t take a gargantuan effort to co-ordinate a dinner that large.
“Thanksgiving is more busy. What we find is that this is a time for forgiveness so a lot of our people get connected with their families and loved ones again.”
The Mission always holds its Christmas dinner a week or so before the official occasion, and despite lower attendance, it’s always a well appreciated event by both the clientele and volunteers who make it work.
“We couldn’t do this without them,” she said. “We have people here who love to give.”
Politicians and members of the business community are staples of the Mission’s events, and it’s something Phillips says their clientele really appreciate.
“Some of them come again and again and people get to know them, and that’s special,” she said.
Former MP Ron Cannan proved that point as he circulated through the dining area offering up cups of coffee or tea to people he referred to by first name.
In turn, they showed they were familiar with him by engaging in cheerful banter.
One regular of the annual dinner is Arnold August. He figures he’s been going to the Mission for the last 10 years, and said that its programs as well as events like this act as a beacon of hope to those in need.
“It lets people feel loved, and puts home in their lives,” August said.
In the days to come it also puts more food in their bellies.
Phillips said once the Christmas dinner was done she’d be busily making the leftover casserole, so as not to disappoint her regulars.
“The Gospel Mission Special is the turkey, the ham, the stuffing, the mixed veggie and the potato on top and served up with gravy,” she said.
“On Thanksgiving we ran out of food, so we couldn’t make it. People were up in arms because the casserole was not there. I hope we can make some for them today.”