A good time was had by all at the 14th Christmas Haven the night before Christmas, including the people who worked for free to put on the non-denominational event that promotes a sense of belonging and camaraderie for those with little or no support.
About 250 people showed up for the Christmas Eve dinner, complete with turkey and gifts.
“It was a fantastic evening. Everybody had just so much fun. It was a really good night,” said volunteer organizer Corisa Bell, a Maple Ridge councillor.
Each year, the Christmas Haven offers a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, a visit from Santa, a gift for everyone and some entertainment for adults and kids who have nowhere else to go.
More families showed up this year. “And of course, we’re still seeing our seniors numbers increasing every year,” Bell said.
In fact, if transportation issues could be solved, more seniors would attend, she added.
Bell said families came to volunteer and help with the event, meaning they could spend the evening together.
Members of the Emerald Pig Theatrical Society dropped in and sang a few songs from A Christmas Carol, which recently showed at the ACT, while the Maple Ridge Dance Circle also entertained and there was face painting for the kids.
Treasurer Deborah Jamieson said total cash donations raised this year were $4,144. Most of that went to the cost of catering the meal ($3,750). The Salvation Army’s Caring Place did all the cooking, preparing about 50 turkeys.
“They did such an amazing job,” Jamieson said. “It was probably our best event ever this year. It was perfect.”
In past years, volunteers did the cooking at the Sally Ann’s kitchen.
The amount of cash raised was more than last year but below the $5,000 or so raised in 2009.
Jamieson likes the consistent scale of the event, year after year. Last year, about 300 people showed up, but the usual number is about 250.
“If we were seeing our numbers double, it would be a sad thing.”
Ten female inmates from the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women helped out by preparing desserts and table pieces and with the set up on the day of the event.