TRURO – For the eighth year, Christmas at the Café will offer a feast on Christmas Day for anyone and everyone.
Aaron Stevenson, who started the free dinner in 2010 with his wife, has joined forces with Stephen Lumsden, the manager at Souls Harbour Rescue Mission in Truro, and his wife, Connie.
“This is an event that has become an annual tradition for many,” said Stevenson. “But as it grows, so does the responsibility and amount of work to organize it. We always get tremendous amount of support from volunteers and the community, but I recognized with starting a new business this year that I needed more help.
“I realized this would make a great connection and it would be a wonderful way to raise the profile of Souls Harbour.”
The rescue mission opened Dec. 10 at 130 King St., Truro, and Lumsden said they were planning to serve four hot meals per week – Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, between 1 and 3 p.m.
“With Souls Harbour, we were thinking of hosting a Christmas dinner ourselves, but opening so late in the year we knew we would need extra hands,” Lumsden said. “It’s all about working together. When we were invited to join in, we were delighted.”
This year’s Christmas dinner will once again be served at the Truro Farmers’ Market. Doors will open at 2 p.m., with live music, snacks, and refreshments while the finishing touches are put on the meal. Stevenson said the meal is served whenever the vegetables are ready, which is usually around 4 p.m.
Trina Currie has been a volunteer at the dinner for four years now, and felt it was a way to help out in the community over the holiday season.
“The great team that works hard each year to organize and ensure the event happens brings me back year after year,” she said, adding it’s also the attendees. “Seeing them enjoy a hearty Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, and being together as a community truly makes it all worthwhile.”
Currie remembers a time when she was younger of being less fortunate during the holidays and admits she has always wanted to give back.
“We as a family still hold time together over the holidays, but now we just make this event a part of our tradition. I have a few family members who help out yearly, either by donating to the dinner or at the actual event. There are many ways to help out.”
She said she remembers community organizations helping her parents out when she was younger, so now it’s her time to return that appreciation.
Rhonda France and her boyfriend, Kyle Olsen, have also been volunteering their time at the event, or leading up to it if they can’t make it to the dinner because of work.
“I started as a way to help out the community further as I was quite involved in the shelter at that time,” said France. “I come back year after year because it’s the real meaning of Christmas – giving to others. The smiles I see and the conversations I have with folks.”
Due to work schedules, France and her family usually meet for their celebrations the day before Christmas, or the days following. Olsen, she said, helps out by putting up flyers and passing out donation letters. When he doesn’t work Christmas Day, Olsen also spends time at the dinner.
“Some folks don’t have family local or any family at all and it is amazing to provide them a warm inviting place to be, to have a turkey dinner, and socialize with others,” said France. “All around it is something I quite enjoy, as I love volunteering. From passing out donation letters and flyers to peeling veggies, doing dishes, and having conversation with people you know and people you just met. Everyone has a story.”
With about 250 people served last year, Stevenson said they rely on donations from the community for the dinner. NovelTea Bookstore Café on Prince Street is a drop-off location for donations of any kind, and Souls Harbour is accepting donations as well.
To volunteer at the dinner, contact Stephen Lumsden at 902-893-0911, or Aaron Stevenson at 902-305-3100.
The dinner is open to everyone, including families. No reservations are needed, and a special invitation goes out to international students and newcomers to the area.
About Souls Harbour Mission Rescue
Along with hot meals weekly, Souls Harbour Mission Rescue will supply people in need with items, such as clothing and toothpaste.
“Down the road, we’re hoping to offer drug and alcohol counselling,” said Lumsden. “People need good friends and somebody to talk to, and we’re here for them.”
The facility had been in the works since the summer, with renovations done to the building. The facility will be open for walk-ins, and no one will be refused meals.
“People don’t realize the need for Souls Harbour in Truro,” said Lumsden. “People often refer to the homeless, but it’s the working poor. So many people are two paycheques away from being homeless. Those are the majority of people we help.”
“For them to know they have these meals, it takes some of the burden off them,” added Connie. “We do little things, like sandwiches on Fridays we give away. That’s how a lot of people got to know us, and us them.”