Photo: The bottom level of the Elk’s Hall in Fort Nelson was packed as residents enjoyed a full turkey and ham Christmas Eve dinner – Brent Hodson/Energeticcity.ca
What does 55 turkeys, 25 hams, 150 dozen buns, 260 litres of gravy and all the trimmings equal? If you add them all together, you see to it no one goes without a Christmas dinner in Fort Nelson.
For 17 years now lots of very caring citizens have come together for just that reason. The Fort Nelson Emergency Services Christmas Dinner Society has taken on this huge task each year. The society consists of RCMP, Fort Nelson Fire Department, Northern Rockies Search & Rescue, B.C. Ambulance, Citizens on Patrol group, Emergency Social Services and many other community groups.
They are expecting about 5,000 people at the Elk’s Hall to get their plates filled this year. Even those who can’t make it to the hall will be taken care of. Seniors and people in hospital can enjoy a meal, because they deliver.
“This event is to celebrate the spirit of the community,” said society president Rob Blain. “There are no barriers and everyone is welcomed. This is for the community and is put on by the community.”
The dinner had humble beginnings. In 1992 RCMP auxiliary constable Cliff Erskine and his wife cooked a couple of turkeys, three hams and all the trimmings and took it down to the rec centre community hall. Seventy people thoroughly enjoyed the meal.
In the early years they actually took individual requests but as the event began to take off, a buffet style dinner made more sense, Erskine said.
Today, it’s a full day event complete with Santa Claus who is flown in on a helicopter to greet the kids and hand out presents. Year round donations to the Society from residents and businesses make it all possible. It takes up to $20,000 and the efforts of well over 100 volunteers to feed this many people at one time.
With an event this size, bumps in the road are expected. A few years ago the rec centre roof collapsed leaving organizers scrambling to find a new venue and they did with the Elk’s Hall. This year the water pipes in the hall were frozen this morning and the desserts ordered ended up in Edmonton for some reason. But with some experience under their belt and the support of the community, those were details rather than problems for organizers.
This year’s dinner was dedicated to Corporal Joern Vosshans—a well respected member of the Fort Nelson RCMP and the community—who passed away in his sleep just five days earlier.