Making sure everyone has an inviting place to enjoy Christmas dinner with all the trimmings is a key motivation behind the Bethel Christian Reformed Church’s annual Christmas Day event at the LMC.
Doors open at 11:30 a.m. with dinner to be served at 12:30 p.m.
The history of the Lacombe Community Christmas Dinner, which has attracted up to 350 guests, stretches back quite a few years - even prior to Bethel’s involvement with it, explained the event’s coordinators Pete and Cora Hoekstra.
In those early years, the Hoekstras volunteered at the dinner which at the time was under different leadership in the community.
Then the opportunity came along to take the reins, and the couple decided to do just that.
“We then approached our church, asking if they would be willing to sponsor it. That was about 15 years ago,” said Cora.
After many awesome years of coordination, in 2019 they decided to step back after that particular holiday season.
Then of course the pandemic happened, so the in-person event was put on hold anyways.
Fast-forward to 2022, and the couple - now retired - started to think about getting involved in the dinner again.
Over the years, they had also developed a solid team of volunteers who were intrinsic to hosting a successful event, which is primarily sponsored by Bethel Christian Reformed Church with support from the City of Lacombe, various local grocery stores, and the Lacombe Food Bank.
“We had very key volunteers who had certain roles, and before we would do it again, we talked to them first. We asked if they were okay to come back again, and they all said yes!”
As Cora also pointed out, the purpose of the meal is about providing a welcoming place for fellowship.
A common assumption is that it’s primarily about food security, but at its heart, it’s really about providing a warm and welcoming place for those who are either lonely or simply alone on such a special holiday.
“This gives them an opportunity to celebrate Christmas like they might remember it from their childhood,” she said, adding that it’s a traditional Christmas dinner and absolutely anyone is welcome to attend. Pete agreed.
“It’s a true community event. It is open to anyone and everyone.”
As mentioned, numbers in recent years have topped the 350-mark - a huge increase from years back when about 80 people attended.
With the growth came the need for a change of venue. So the dinner began to be held at the LMC which a partnership with the City of Lacombe made possible.
As to the event, there are also a few games, some special music, the singing of some carols, a reading of the Christmas story, and lots of time to visit.
About 12 people do the food prep on Christmas Eve day. Then, on Christmas Day, about 40 people volunteer.
Again, it’s all about community.
“It’s about connecting people; it’s about fellowship - it’s about relationships,” said Cora.
“That’s what this is about - and bringing joy to people on Christmas Day.”
Pete said how it’s a constantly fulfilling event to be a part of.
“When you see the wheels start to move, then it’s really quite gratifying. To see neighbours, church members, community members, and family come in - they roll up their sleeves, and say ‘Here we go!’ That’s a great thing - people working together for a really positive thing.”
Cora agreed. “The key piece is that it’s Christmas Day. And even if that isn’t part of your faith background, we all have an idea of what we should be doing on Christmas Day - most of us would say, we don’t want to be alone. So if we can facilitate some connection and some fulfillment, then that’s what we want to do.”
For more about the Lacombe Community Christmas Dinner, and sponsorship opportunities with the event, call Bethel Christian Reformed Church at 403-782-6400.