THUNDER BAY - For anyone not yet feeling the holiday spirit, serving up a hearty meal and sharing gifts to those who may not have those blessing at this time of year will surely turn that around.
“If you weren’t in the spirit of Christmas, it’s an event like this that really makes you shine,” said Travis Batting, general manager at the Valhalla Inn. “Just to see all the kids and all the people who may not have a nice Christmas meal, to be able to give back and be a part of that is an incredible thing.”
The Salvation Army and the Valhalla Inn hosted its annual Christmas Dinner on Sunday to more than 400 people.
The dinner was held in the Valhalla Inn Ballroom and Major Lori Mitchell, executive director at Salvation Army community and residential services, said for the past 25 years anyone looking for a good meal and some good company has been welcomed.
“There are a lot of people who may just not have the same means to be able to do something nice at Christmas or they might find themselves alone and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to cook a turkey for myself,” she said.
“It just means people can come and be part of something bigger than themselves and to know that someone in the community cares about them, that they are valued.”
The annual dinner also includes a gift room for families to pick out a present for children and youth.
This year the toy room was nearly bursting with toys donated through various campaigns this year, including Thunder Bay Wellness Centre toy mountain, the Bargain Shop, the Lakehead University Thunderwolves teddy bear toss, and the Toys for Tots motorcycle ride.
“As far as the toys it is more because we had just under 10,000 toys from Toys R Us,” Mitchell said. “That has really made a difference in the toys, but what we get from the other toy drives is really awesome as well, but this year we had a little bit of a boost.”
But the highlight of the day of course was the traditional holiday meal, which included turkey, potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, and desert.
“Today we are expecting 425 people,” Batting said. “That’s a lot of turkeys, that’s a lot of potatoes, that’s a lot of vegetables. We estimate our contribution is about $12,000 to $15,000 that we put into this meal."
Valhalla Inn staff also volunteered their time to serve and clean up after the meal. And whether it was a server, someone just finishing up a delicious meal, or a child getting that special toy, everyone left with a smile.
“It’s great to see so many people coming together to make an event like this happen,” Mitchell said. “For many of the people who come, they would never have a reason to be in the Valhalla Ballroom other than this. So it just makes it so special for them.”