After a two-year hiatus from in-person celebrations, Christmas Haven is returning to ACT Arts Centre for their 24th Annual Christmas Dinner.
Many residents of Ridge Meadows don’t get to celebrate the festive season with family and friends but that doesn’t mean they should be alone.
Born out of the desire for togetherness during the holiday season, the dinner has been a community tradition since 1998.
The completely volunteer-run organization holds a traditional Christmas Eve dinner with turkey, gifts, a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus, performances and more for people of all ages.
In previous years, the event has attracted nearly 300 people but this is the first time they are returning to in-person celebrations after the pandemic.
The energy at the organization is palpable.
“We are excited to see familiar faces and new people in the community. It has just been a vibrant and very feel-good event. We are so happy to do this right at Christmas time, kids are excited and that energy is so infectious,” said Alyson Cuthbertson, chairperson of the committee.
This year, 65 volunteers – some as young as nine years old – have signed up to help. That response is unprecedented, according to Cuthbertson.
Except for food, everything is done voluntarily by artists and entertainers.
Inflation has resulted in a 45 per cent cost increase since 2019, something the organization is concerned about for future years.
Despite fundraising efforts from Temptations Salon and Spa, Rotary Club, Kiwanis for Golden Ears and Vancity, they had to use saved funds to put together the event, a major chunk of which goes towards food.
But while they consider future financial possibilities, they are excited to be returning in person.
Sitting beside someone you have never met before is exciting, especially if you’re new to the community.
“Most people are surprised that we give gifts. Once someone said that I am going to open my gift tomorrow morning because it’s the only gift I will get,” said Alyson.
In the past two years, volunteers collaborated with Ridge Meadows Salvation Army and delivered 900 Christmas dinners and gifts to seniors and residents at other facilities in Ridge Meadows.
The dinner is scheduled to be served on Saturday, December 24, at ACT Arts Centre from 5 to 8 p.m. No reservations required.