It’s been a tough year for Ray McColl.
He was laid off from his job outside Camrose, went to Edmonton to look for work and then finally three weeks ago found a job on a pig farm near Lacombe.
He was one of a couple of hundred people sitting down for a meal of turkey, ham, stuffing, corn, mixed vegetables, broccoli salad and trifle at the Salvation Army dinner on Christmas Day.
“This is a big help,” he said. “I seen the ad in the paper and when I seen it I thought I might as well go there.”
He said he doesn’t know anybody in the community yet so it was nice to drop by the Salvation Army Christmas dinner.
“There’s a lot of people here,” he said. “At least they’ve got a smile on their face.”
The dinner has been going for the past 35 years thanks to the generosity of a family who wishes to remain anonymous. Beverages were provided by Red Deer Bottling and Associated Cab picked up people and delivered meals. The Waskasoo Blue Grass Music Society volunteers provided music for the event.
Captain/Pastor Jason Sabourin said people attend who are between addresses, travelling through the area, seniors and others.
“We like people to know that they are welcome here and we would like to see them as part of our family,” he said.
Sabourin was helping on Friday with this wife Tammy, their children and his mother-in-law. Volunteers expected to make around 200 meals, using eight turkeys, five hams and around 80 bags of potatoes.
It was the first year as volunteers for husband and wife Guy and Michelle Garrett. He was doling out turkey and she served broccoli salad and potatoes.
“We’ve been through tough times and we know what it is like,” Michelle said. “People helped us through tough times and we want to give back now.”
She said eventually they’d like to get their three children involved in helping.
Guy said everyone was so appreciative of the meal. “We wish everyone a Merry Christmas.”
Sonny Foster and his wife Theresa Foster were both wearing Santa hats as they ate their meal.
“It’s fantastic. It’s very well put together,” Theresa said.
Sonny hasn’t been able to work since February of last year because he has had medical complications and has been waiting for surgery.
“There is a need for this for sure in Red Deer,” he said. “It’s wonderful for people who need it.”
A different dinner was being served at Potter’s Hands on Friday, which was hosted by Berachah Place.
The festivities started with a breakfast at Berachah Place at 7:30 a.m., followed by Christmas dinner, presents and music by Crossroads Church volunteers, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Potter’s Hands.
Kimberley Wilson, director of Berachah Place, said the event went wonderfully and she couldn’t imagine spending Christmas anywhere else.
“This is the true meaning of Christmas for me. It’s not about receiving. It’s about giving,” she said.
Alvy Prince was one of those dining at the Berachah Place/Potter’s Hands event.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Prince, who does seasonal landscaping work and is without a home or a job at the moment. “(The volunteers) take their own time to cater to us and cook this meal.”
He said it can be rough sometimes, especially with the weather so cold. But he said people on the streets of Red Deer look out for one another.
Leroy John has been homeless for the past couple of years and stays at the Winter Inn, held at different churches and run by the Safe Harbour Society. He’d like to get an apartment with friends this year and find a job in construction.
Asked what he liked the most. “I really enjoyed the pork, the veggies were good. Everything was good,” he said.