This is the last in The Guardian’s series ‘I Believe’, which included inspirational and uplifting stories to get us in the holiday spirit. Merry Christmas from all of us at The Guardian.
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - A Charlottetown senior citizen who has no one else to spend Christmas with is thankful for the Upper Room Hospitality Ministry.
The Soup Kitchen on Richmond Street in Charlottetown expects more than 130 people for Christmas dinner on Monday.
“It means everything to me,’’ said Victor Keats. “It’s a tough time of year for me because I have no family and I’m all alone, so I just come here for dinner. It’s my Christmas.’’
Tammy MacKinnon, manager of the Soup Kitchen, said people come for food and activity for a variety of reasons, including no money, no one to share the holidays with and addiction issues.
“If you don’t have a workplace and no family, it’s a hard time of the year,’’ MacKinnon said.
Keats said the Soup Kitchen is literally as close as some Islanders will get to having a traditional Christmas dinner.
“If it weren’t for a place like this, a lot of people would be going with no meal and a nice warm place to sit and a friendly atmosphere,’’ Keats said.
MacKinnon said they try to make things as festive as they can. A decorating party dresses up the place because some people don’t have decorations or the means to decorate at home.
“We have our huge Christmas dinner and Christmas gifts for everyone who comes in. Our focus on Christmas Day is if people need to come here for Christmas dinner they probably have no place to go so even though we’ll probably have 130 people we try and make it as homey and as family oriented as we can,’’ she said.
The tables will be decorated with tablecloths and centrepieces. Normally, clients at the Soup Kitchen serve themselves but, on this day, roughly 15 volunteers will show up to serve them. As for those volunteers, so many people want to help out that MacKinnon has a waiting list.
The clients will be treated to a full, traditional turkey dinner and donated pies for dessert. Cows donates the ice cream.
MacKinnon will be there, too, even though she won’t technically be working.
“I work every day with these clients. I think of them as my friends and family, so I would not miss being here with these guys,’’ MacKinnon said, adding that her family will also be showing up to help out.
MacKinnon is one of three full-time staff members at the Soup Kitchen. The other two are chefs who make sure that the clients eat well.
But the help extends far beyond the staff.
“Tons of volunteers,’’ MacKinnon said, motioning to stress the point. “We couldn’t manage without our volunteers. We also have a lot of clients willing to help, willing to wipe down tables (or) sweep and mop.’’
MacKinnon said the reality of life is that not everyone can celebrate at home around a Christmas tree.
“But if we can come here on Christmas Day and have a festive atmosphere with a beautiful dinner and give them a gift, it’s really just about sharing a moment with each other.’’