Filling a need

Victory Church sets the table to offer a Christmas dinner for those in need

  • Dec. 8, 2011 10:00 a.m.
Volunteer Bev Clark (left) and Naomi Skriver

Volunteer Bev Clark (left) and Naomi Skriver

Table for 200? Coming right up.

Victory Church of Penticton is putting the finishing touches on a feast fit for an entire community, offering a Christmas dinner on Tuesday for those who would normally go without.

Naomi Skriver, Victory’s office manager, said the congregation was planning its regular Christmas banquet earlier this fall when the idea of inviting the community in came to them. Rather than having a potluck, guest speakers or skits like the church regularly does, she said the charitable spirit struck the planning committee.

“The idea came up that, why not, in place of doing the Christmas banquet for the church, we help the needy? Let’s bless them, and that will be like God’s blessing to us,” she said. “Everyone thought the idea was great and we went from there.”

The church has never done a large-scale community dinner before, and thankfully they had some experience within their ranks. The office manager teamed up with Bev Clark, a congregation member who used to oversee similar seasonal dinners for a church in B.C.’s north. “She knows how much of anything we need and what to buy for this many people,” Skriver explained.

They set the guest limit at 200 people, and Skriver said they’re hoping the estimate meets the need. Clark’s previous experience in the north found strong demand.

“They were planning for 200. They had so much, the next year they turned it into two nights and had 400. We’re preparing for 200 people, and it will be first-come, first-serve. Hopefully we don’t have to turn anyone away,” Skriver said.

Then came the math: To feed 200 people, Victory would need at least six giant turkeys that, when combined, weigh between 215 and 220 pounds. Those would be served alongside about 100 pounds of potatoes, 15 kilograms of vegetables, 12 boxes of stuffing (with even more bread, onions and celery to make it even bigger), litres of gravy and cans upon cans of cranberry sauce.

If that weren’t enough, everyone will be sent home with a bag of three homemade Christmas cookies — from a batch of 600.

“It’s just based on all volunteers in our church. They’re going to be serving the people, setting up the church, tearing down the church,” she said. “Every day, I talk to someone new who will do something. We have a good 50 or 60 people who are doing this.

“I had some volunteers in this week and we’ve been rolling 210 sets of cutlery tied with ribbons and that took us a few days to go through as fast as we could. But everything seems to be set up as we can do it. Everything we can do ahead of time, we are.”

Food prep volunteers will arrive on Sunday to pick up ingredients. Potato people, for example, will pick up 25 pounds of spuds each to begin the process of peeling and chopping. They will boil the potatoes on Tuesday, bringing them in by 4 p.m. to begin a group mash alongside veggie and gravy prep.

Although the church kitchen features six stoves, Skriver said they are ensuring the turkeys come out perfectly by handing the birds off to the pros.

“We have a kitchen at our church, but we heard it has to be professionally done in an actual kitchen, because we’re feeding so many in the community. We’re going to have Charles Manor kitchen preparing the turkeys for us,” she said. “We’re going to cut them up, but they’re going to have everything cooked.”

Victory has received a fair bit of help with their shopping list. Letters were sent out to major grocery stores, and Safeway, the Real Canadian Wholesale Club and Wal-Mart all answered the call with donations. They have also secured some prizes to give away at the end of the meal, allowing some to go home with gift baskets of food or clothing.

The dinner is intended for those who wouldn’t get a chance to celebrate Christmas otherwise, and to reach their target audience, posters have been set up at the Soupateria, the men’s shelter, the Salvation Army, SOWINS, government assistance offices and other areas where people turn to for help.

“The feedback has been really, really positive,” Skriver said, adding one volunteer distributed pamphlets to motels who have winter residents. “I haven’t heard from actual people who are planning on coming, but the management at the motels think that it’s amazing and know the people who are staying at the motels could really use it and need it. It’s something they’ll be spreading the word about.

“Hopefully we’re not turning anyone away.”

The dinner will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 5:30 p.m. Seating is available only on a first-come, first-served basis. Victory Church of Penticton is at 352 Winnipeg St. There is no charge for dinner.