When the deteriorating weather conditions forced organizers to delay the free Christmas Day dinner at St. Anthony’s Hall in Woodstock until Boxing Day, the event’s founder, Preston Murphy admits he thought they’d lose part of their crowd.
“I’d say it was bigger than other years, just by the crowd that was at the hall,” he said afterwards.
Between 170 and 180 people showed up for the December 26 offering, and another 60 people were provided with take-outs.
“I called the government garage in Summerside and they said it was going to start to snow at 9 o’clock (Christmas morning), and it was going to be a full-blown storm at 12:30, and they were right on,” said Murphy. “They said it would be a good idea to cancel it.”
He figured the meal would attract only about half the usual crowd.
“But about 40 volunteers – many of whom had been at the hall helping with preparations on Christmas Eve – and the diners turned out in force on Boxing Day.
“It really impressed me that there were that many more turned out,” he said.
Although the meal was provided free of charge, donations were accepted and Murphy said those donations are allowing for $1,000 to be given to the St. Anthony’s Church Restoration Fund and an equal amount to Transportation West.
Many of the diners stuck around for the musical entertainment that was provided throughout the afternoon.
While the numbers increased at the St. Anthony’s supper, Charlene Doherty believes the Christmas Day storm is the reason attendance at the annual Boxing Day dinner her restaurant, Chez Char, in Wellington, was down this year. The restaurant had from 40 to 60 people dropping by each of the previous two years but only 12 this year. She figures some of her regulars were attending family dinners on Boxing Day that had been postponed from Christmas Day. Staff subsequently delivered additional meals to area seniors.
About $150 in donations were destined for the Salvation Army Food Bank.
Pastor Eddie Rossiter at the Summerside Church of the Nazarene, said about 20 volunteers helped prepare and serve a Boxing Day meal which attracted approximately 100 diners. Many of the diners, he said, also took take-outs with them, and volunteers delivered additional take-outs. There were also prize draws for gift certificates.
“It was a great evening with a lot of festivities,” Rossiter said.
Even though the Boxing Day meal was more relaxed, in that people did not have to rush off to a gathering somewhere else, Murphy said they will be returning to the Christmas Day meal next year, but with Boxing Day penciled in as the storm date.