By Jaymie L. White
Special to the Appalachian
STEPHENVILLE – For over two decades, the Knights of Columbus in Stephenville (KCS) have been taking time out of their own family Christmas celebrations to help those in need in around the region during the holidays.
Bob Miller of KCS said the annual Christmas dinner is the organization’s way of making sure that people who are usually alone at Christmas are still able to have a home cooked meal and a bit of company.
“The whole idea behind our Christmas dinner is for seniors who can’t provide a Christmas meal for themselves, or students who are here alone, or anyone who is alone at Christmastime,” said Miller. “It was always a sit-down meal. You would come over here (KCS building) and therefore you’re not alone. You’re with people. COVID had other ideas. Because of COVID, we can’t have people together, so what we did last year and what we are doing this year is delivery. We bring the dinner to people’s homes.”
Clyde Russell, Grand Knight, said it was the 22nd year for the dinner.
“It was a huge social event, so a lot of people who would be alone at Christmas. It was an opportunity for them to come in, have a good meal, mingle, listen to some music and talk to their friends. Of course, with COVID we’ve decided to keep a semblance of it with the deliveries to hopefully brighten someone’s day,” said Russell.
Despite the adjustments for the pandemic, people still seem in good spirits thanks to the deliveries.
“Everybody was extremely receptive to that last year. It was the first time we had done that, and everyone was really positive about it overall,” shared Russell.
Miller said, as much as they would love to help everyone, they have to ensure those who need it the most are the ones who receive the meals.
“The idea of our dinner is not to feed a family who are home who can cook their own meal or find their own meal. It’s if you’re home and you’re by yourself, or you’re an elderly couple and you really can’t cook your own meal,” explained Miller. “If we go giving people five and six meals to a household, when we only have a certain number of dollars and certain items of food, the people who really need it will be left out and we can’t have that.”
Miller said it can be hard to make the decision as to whether or not a family is able to receive the meals, but it’s a necessary process.
“It’s hard but I do it. It’s got to be done,” said Miller. “If somebody – depending on their circumstances – if they really need six meals, we will certainly do six meals for them. If they’re struggling, I have no problems bringing the meals to them. None whatsoever.”
This year a total of 138 meals were prepared, cooked, packaged and delivered by approximately 35 volunteers. Miller said there was also a big change this year that KCS had been working on for a long time.
“We finally got a caterer. We had been looking for two years and we finally got one,” said Miller. “Jennifer Evans, she is a cook by trade and she is now our caterer. This year she cooked the meals and it saves us from, in prior years, all of us having to come in on the 24th to do all the peeling, all the prep work, and another group coming in on the 25th to do the cooking.”
A $1,000 donation from the NL Dental Association as well as a donation of potatoes, carrots, and turnips from Betty and John Erickson were valuable contributions that ensured the meals could be provided. Russell said the dinner does so well because of the tireless work of everyone involved.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our volunteers. We have many folks working behind the scenes to prepare the meal, deliver the meal, there’s a lot of moving parts and I want to say thank you to all those folks,” said Russell. “As well, the Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Association has provided a financial donation to our Christmas dinner for the past three years and again this year, so a big shout out to them as well.”
Miller said this year’s success is a far cry from what the dinner was in its first year.
“Our very first year we had two dinners. We just went to the restaurant and bought two dinners. People didn’t know what it was about, but from there it started growing slowly and every year it grows. It never goes down,” said Miller. “This year we also decided to do dinners for all first responders who are working on Christmas as well.”
Miller said it is a heartwarming experience, not just for those who receive the dinners, but for the volunteers who donate their time.
“People are very thankful, very appreciative,” said Miller. “And our volunteers love it. They wouldn’t do it if they didn’t enjoy doing it. They’re not being forced to come out to do these deliveries. They volunteered to come out and do it.”
Making the experience positive for everyone involved is a key part of its success.
“It’s very rewarding, without question, to be able to do a nice thing like this on Christmas Day. It’s very rewarding for everyone involved,” said Russell. “Putting other people ahead of yourself is always a good feeling and in the world today. I think we need a lot more of that.”