Christmas is typically seen as a time to celebrate with family and friends over a hearty feast.
But many in the community do not have a hearth to gather around, nor loved ones with whom to share the holiday.
“Christmas is a tough time for a lot of people,” said Sherry Haines, a community development co-ordinator with the City of Brantford. “It’s an even tougher time if you don’t have family connections or are living somewhat of a more marginalized life.”
To provide a welcoming place during a difficult time of year for some, Haines brought together social agencies, churches, charities and food banks to jointly host a Christmas Day lunch from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Church on Darling Street.
“This is open to any and all,” Haines said. “It’s a Christmas celebration.
“It’s not just about the nutrition, it’s about the human contact and the welcoming approach volunteers provide.”
Poverty has many faces, Haines said. A sudden job loss or debilitating illness can turn the holidays into a time of stress.
She hopes people who typically don’t access meal programs – the elderly, teens and young families in particular – will feel welcome around the table at St. Andrew’s this Christmas.
Organizers chose the church because it is a downtown location already familiar to many social services clients and is easily accessible for those without access to a vehicle. Last summer, the church’s meal program averaged about 180 people each night. In the fall, that number increased to 200.
“We’re planning on 200 to 250 people at Christmas, which would mean two sittings,” Haines said.
The organizing committee was thrilled by community response to the new holiday initiative.
“It has just come together so easily in terms of people saying ‘I’m in,’” Haines said. “It’s a lovely testament to what people feel is important and what they can do to help.”
No single group could arrange such a large undertaking but, bit by bit, donations of time and materials turned up.
“We needed a tree – I’ve gotten three,” Haines said. “You pull together and it’s amazing what you can accomplish.”
Haines hopes the Christmas lunch helps people “enjoy their day, enjoy their meal and spend a nice time enjoying Christmas.”
Volunteers are needed to decorate the hall, set up, clean up, prepare food and serve turkey dinner. To register for the lunch or to volunteer, call 519-752-5823.
Also on Christmas Day, Heritage United Church will serve its annual breakfast from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. The Salvation Army Booth Centre is serving lunch from 12:15 p.m. until 12:45 p.m. on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Pleasant Valley Church will host a free community Christmas breakfast from 9 a.m. until 10 a.m.
On Christmas Eve, Why Not Brantford Youth Centre will host a 6 p.m. dinner for youth ages 13 to 21 at 88 Colborne St.