Community Meal Christmas Dinners

Here are a few pictures from our Christmas Meal on Dec 11, 2012.   This year, we held two Christmas dinners, to try to accommodate everyone comfortably and avoid long lineups.    Dec 11 was primarily aimed at families with children and Dec 18 was open to everyone.  On Dec 11, thirty-four children attended, aged 8 months to 16 years.   We had gifts for every child, and a very special visitor to hand them out: Santa Claus.   Wonderful food (turkey with all the trimmins plus fresh baked mince tarts and ice cream), music courtesy of Jackie, Dalton, Trinity and Kris-Ann.  A good time had by all.

Sorry, no pictures of Santa -- camera batteries ran out.

Some of our many dedicated volunteers.  Top row: Marty trying out Santa's chair, Dick.Next row standing: Riseley, Karen, Pat, Cliff, Ken, Michael, Patrick, Hermine, Glenna.  Seated: Anne, Renee, Jackie, Anna, Grace.  Many others helped out that night who missed the photo, including Peter, Hugh, Rose, Margaret, Westley, Larry, Karen, Tom, Danny, Richard, Tessa, Olivia, Melissa, Lorraine, Skylar, the Steveston Rotary club, Alex, Ann and maybe a few more I forgot

Santa's big chair with all the presents around the tree.  Most of the presents supplied by Santa's helpers at St Anne Anglican in Richmond.  The remainder from St Alban Community Meal.

The Events Committee did a great job of the tables: beautiful centerpieces, red and green tablecloths, festive napkins and an orange and candy cane for everyone.  Oranges and candy canes donated by the Richmond Food Bank.

Turkeys getting carved up by Steveston Rotary members, part of the team who served the meal.

Volunteer Training Workshop

Wed, Sept 26, we hosted a volunteer training workshop at the Richmond Food Bank.    The workshop familiarized volunteers with the community we serve, with an emphasis on communications, conflict resolution, mental health and addictions.

It was an excellent session, featuring five different speakers from local Richmond addictions and mental health organizations.

The session was originally aimed at volunteers for the new drop-in centre at St Alban, but we decided the workshop would be extremely valuable to volunteers from organizations which target the same population as the drop-in centre.  So, we opened up the invite to volunteers from the Food Bank, where each week over 500 families file through this same room to pick up their groceries,  the weekly Community Meal, where over 150 folks are served dinner each week and the Extreme Weather Shelter at St Alban where dozens are given a warm place to sleep and hot meals each winter.

In all, over fifty volunteers filled the room and were treated to five excellent, heartfelt presentations from our guest speakers:

Barbara Bawlf - Vancouver Coastal Health/Richmond Mental Health Consumers and Friends
Rick Dubras - Richmond Addiction Services
Barbara Fee  - Canadian Mental Health Association
Danny Taylor - Richmond Addiction Services
Randy Vance - Vancouver Coastal Health

The evening was filled with compassion and warmth, something we hope our guests will feel at the Community Meal.

Our fifteenth season is underway

Last Tuesday, we started our fifteenth consecutive season serving meals to the community in the hall of St Alban.    As in past years, we had shut down for the summer months (we are basically open during the school year), but many people must have marked their calendars when service would resume as we served meals to 160 hungry people.

It was great to see familiar faces from past years and some people who are new.  All were treated to a fine meal of pasta with meat or veggie sauce, caesar salad, garlic toast and a fantastic blueberry desert made from blueberries picked fresh that same day by Grace (one of the kitchen helpers) from the fields of Richmond.  

The weather was fine and four people enjoyed their meal on the picnic table in the back garden.

A great start to the year and we look forward to serving many more fine meals to many fine people.

Appreciating our volunteers

We wouldn't have a meal without our wonderful volunteers, some of whom have been with the meal since day one, and as we are about to enter our fifteenth season, that's dedication!  And to keep our team vibrant and growing, we are fortunate to have new volunteers join us each year.    Every volunteer is a special member of the team and is much appreciated.   To say thanks, we organize an annual volunteer appreciation dinner to close off the season.  This year, we had a Hawaiian theme, with great decorations and door prizes arranged by our events team, fantastic food and a live band that really added to the festive atmosphere.   Thanks to all who helped out at this special meal and a  special thanks to all the volunteers who helped out this past season.  

Thanks VanCity Richmond

VanCity has a well-deserved reputation for community involvement -- among their many awards, they were ranked in the top 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada, ranked #2 on the list, in fact.    They are also known as the country's largest Credit Union, but it's people who make VanCity special and our local Richmond branch is a longtime supporter of the Community Meal, with individuals from the branch volunteering their time to serve.  VanCity is also a financial supporter of the meal, so we thank them doubly for their support.   

Rotary Club of Richmond Sunrise

Richmond Sunrise Rotary, pictured above are our longstanding last-Tuesday-of-the-month servers and we greatly appreciate their continued support of the St Alban Community Meal.  Of course the Rotary clubs of Richmond are well known for their generosity in the community and to learn a little more about the Sunrise Rotary, have a look at their website and facebook pages, here:  Richmond Sunrise website and here: Sunrise Rotary Facebook page

Say cheese

I've had a hard time convincing our camera-shy kitchen crew to stop working long enough to take their picture, but managed this week.  I neglected to tell them to "say cheese" but they smiled anyway - they're a pretty jolly bunch.   Had I thought of it I would have told them "say mac and cheese" because that's what they were preparing for the night's meal.  On the table you can see about a dozen platters of macaroni and Grace is holding a big bowl of grated cheese to be added.  Ahhh, mac and cheese: I couldn't imagine a more comforting meal on a wet, chilly spring day, except perhaps the ham dinner the week before, or Rose's fabled meat loaf the week before that or ... well, I think all the Community Meals are comforting.

By the way, I was curious about the origin of the "say cheese" expression and what words people might use in other languages to encourage smiles, so looked online  and wikipedia (sometimes a reliable source) lists the following:

Bulgaria: "say cabbage"
China: "say eggplant"
Denmark: "say orange"
Iran: "say apple"
Spain: "say potato"
Sweden: "say omelette"

Interesting that these are all foods.  Maybe that explains why the kitchen crew is always smiling.