The committee members who organize Christmas Haven in Maple Ridge – an annual Dec. 24 dinner that has become a 20-year tradition. (Contributed)

The committee members who organize Christmas Haven in Maple Ridge – an annual Dec. 24 dinner that has become a 20-year tradition. (Contributed)

Christmas Haven brings community together

Maple Ridge’s annual Christmas Eve dinner celebrates 20 years

The 20th annual Christmas Haven once again offered a community event for people in Maple Ridge who might otherwise spend Christmas alone.

Alyson Cuthbertson, who chairs the committee of volunteers who organized the Christmas dinner and entertainment at the ACT Arts Centre on Dec. 24, said there were 70 volunteers who made the night special for 230 guests.

“It was our 20th anniversary and it was a very successful night,” she said.

The guests included Maple Ridge families, many seniors who might otherwise have spent the night alone, and some residents from Anita Place Tent City and other homeless people who joined in the welcoming holiday festivities.

“It really, truly is a community dinner for anyone who wants a hot turkey dinner and to listen to some entertainment,” said Cuthbertson.

Coleen Pierre of the Katzie First Nation was there for a ceremony to bless the meal, and pianist Peter Tam played an original song he wrote to honour the Haven.

“That was spectacular,” said Cuthbertson.

Other local entertainers, singer Bruce Coughlan and piper Russell Dengally, also volunteered to entertain the crowd.

Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance, and all of the guests were given a gift – toques, gloves, gift cards for coffee shops and restaurants and other items.

Chef Rob Field, who works for the Salvation Army, volunteers his time, as do his kitchen staff, to create a traditional Christmas feast.

Cuthbertson said the Christmas Haven has the strong foundation of a dozen committee members who have now been working together for four years, although some of them have volunteered for as long as 13 at the event.

“It’s a really stable group, and all of our families come to the event,” she said.

They all got involved out of a sense of community.

“It’s an opportunity to meet people, and provide something really important to the community.”

She said the group will get a strong start on their next 20 years, starting with Christmas Haven 2019.

“We’re certainly looking forward to 2019 – there’s still so much love for the event.”

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