(VMO) Sixty five turkeys, the gift of an anonymous donor, are being prepared for a Christmas meal that will feed more than 500 people who might not otherwise have a chance to enjoy a festive meal this holiday season.
The dinner is being served by Father John Walsh and 85 volunteers at Bonsecours Market on Dec. 13, and will include entertainment. Mayor Denis Coderre is expected to show up, as he did last year, to help work the kitchens and serve the meals.
The tradition began 14 years ago when Walsh was still a radio talk show host and one of his colleagues, Carol Phaneuf, heard there were more than 20,000 people over the age of 60 living alone downtown. "She came to me and asked whether we could sponsor a dinner to feed 100, and I said if can do it for 100, we can do it for 500," said Walsh.
Tickets to the holiday luncheon are distributed by the Old Brewery Mission, Sun Youth, the Action Centre and other charitable institutions. Volunteers at PACC (Pearson Adult and Career Centre) , under the guidance of Nancy Gagnon at the culinary school, cook and prepare the turkeys on the Saturday before the luncheon, IGA Beck refrigerates the food overnight and it is delivered to the Bonsecours Market early Sunday in time for the luncheon.
The eventdepends on sponsors including IGA Beck, Manzo Pizzeria, P.A. Supermarkets, Tim Horton's Kirkland, the PACC Adult Education Centre, Stokes, Ardent Mills, Miss Browns, Delsan AIM Environmental Services, Mardi Gras Rental, Westmount Moving, and Generations Foundation.
No one who shows up is turned away. Walsh recalls, "One year pizza was offered to the late comers. And another year we ran out of food, so we went to St. Hubert Bar-B-Q, and disguised the chicken as turkey. No one knew the difference."