The sense of fellowship during an in-person communal Christmas dinner has not been possible in Swift Current since the COVID-19 pandemic, but the City of Swift Current is again partnering with various organizations this festive season to deliver meals to individuals and families.
The change in format happened last year due to the pandemic, when meals were prepared and delivered on Christmas Eve. Another change also occurred last year, when the City started to coordinate the planning of the event.
Krista Caswell, the community recreation coordinator at City of Swift Current Community Services, said the Salvation Army was previously the lead organization for the community Christmas dinner, but it decided to step away due to the need to focus on the demands of its own annual Christmas campaign.
“So in 2020 the City and the community organizations planned and organized the dinner for delivery due to the pandemic,” she explained. “And this year the City of Swift Current partnered with SwiftLink to plan and organize this much needed meal.”
Last year’s initiative delivered a total of 360 Christmas meals to community members. She noted the delivery format resulted in an increase of meals provided compared to the in-person format.
She expected that a similar number of meals will again be delivered this Christmas Eve. There were already 239 meals ordered on Dec. 9, and there was a significant increase in the number of registrations for meals since earlier that same week. She therefore anticipated more and ongoing meal registrations until the deadline of Dec. 15.
The basic format of the community Christmas dinner remained the same for 2021, but there are some changes due to the involvement of organizations with key functions.
Last year’s meal was prepared by volunteers, but this year it will be done by Country Hills Catering in partnership with Laverne Krywulak from Walker Place and ServiceMaster.
“They’re kind of combining forces,” Caswell said. “So they’ll be cooking the entire meal together, because it’s catering. And then the volunteers will package all the meals on the 23rd and then on the 24th everything will be delivered. The meals will be delivered cold, just to make sure that the food safety is in line with everything. So the meals will just have to be re-heated in the homes that we deliver to.”
The change in arrangements for meal preparation will make a real difference compared to last year, when additional volunteers were required to also do the cooking.
“Last year it was mostly volunteers that was cooking the meals and so we just looked at trying to make things a lot easier and streamlined,” she said. “Connie [Wiebe] from Country Hills Catering heard what we were doing and she was willing to cook the meal. … It was just an extra weight off of our shoulders to find volunteers. So the volunteers will just be doing the delivery this year.”
Meal recipients can look forward to a classic Christmas meal with turkey, potatoes, vegetables, and all the fixings. Volunteers will be delivering the meals in re-useable bags, which the meal recipients can keep. These bags have been obtained through sponsorship from Farm Credit Canada.
The bags will include a Christmas surprise for meal recipients, which was made possible through SaskEnergy’s Share the Warmth grant. Caswell noted that the participation of various organizations will certainly contribute to the success of this year’s community Christmas dinner.
Other participating organizations that are contributing in various ways are Pioneer Co-op, Safeway, Wholesale Club of Swift Current, Mamas & Mayhem Clothing, Great Plains College Student Association, Country Club Distributors, Pharmasave, and Robertson Family Group.
“All of these organizations sponsored different things,” Caswell said. “Right now, because of the sponsorship, the meals have costed nothing. So it’s fantastic. It’s truly a community dinner, because without these sponsors we would not be able to make it happen. It’s really nice knowing that this meal has costed nothing and it’s due to community organizations coming together.”
Individual volunteers who sign up to deliver the meals will also be an essential part of the success of the community Christmas dinner, as they will ensure that people receive their meals on Christmas Eve. The goal was to have at least 15 volunteers available to do the deliveries on Dec. 24. There are two shift options, from 12:30 to 3 p.m. and from 2:45 to 5:15 p.m.
Each volunteer will receive a list of deliveries and then take it directly to the families and people who requested meals. Anyone still looking for ways to help out can check the City of Swift Current Facebook and Twitter pages to see if volunteers are still needed for the meal deliveries.
“Without the community coming together, we would not be able to make this possible,” she said. “So I’m very thankful for all of our sponsors and all of the volunteers.”
The COVID-19 pandemic situation will continue to determine the future format of the community Christmas dinner in Swift Current. Caswell said any decisions on the format will be influenced by the pandemic and considerations about the most effective way to provide a meal to people at Christmas.
“Last year our numbers increased immensely with delivery,” she noted. “So we would love to be able to have a sit-down meal again. However, I think for some people it’s difficult for them to get out of their houses to go to a sit-down meal. So it’s nice to be able to have it delivered to them. We might be looking at a variety of different options, whether it be a sit-down and a delivery, we might do a hybrid, but we will think about that in the new year.”