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Free Christmas dinner for hundreds of people

Santa Claus was on hand to hear Christmas wish lists from children such as Tessa Muirhead.

Volunteers such as Anilda Van Beek served pie for dessert Saturday at the Community Christmas Celebration at the community hall.

Organizers of the Community Christmas Celebration were overwhelmed Saturday by the response from Fort Macleod.
Close to 350 people turned out for a free Christmas dinner and a visit with Santa Claus at the Fort Macleod and District Community Hall.
“It’s an awesome turnout,” said Becky Baker of Synergy Land Services, which took the lead in organizing the event.
Organizers had planned to feed 300 people, and prepared 200 pounds of turkey, 250 pounds of mashed potatoes, 75 pounds of vegetables, 26 dozen buns, 10 gallons of gravy and 31 pies.
The number of residents who turned out for dinner is close to double from last year, the first year the Community Christmas Celebration was held.
“We wanted to bring the community together — everybody and anybody,” Brock Anderson of Synergy Land Services explained.
Last year, some people stayed away thinking the free dinner was only for people who were unable or could not afford their own Christmas dinner.
Event organizers worked hard this year to get word out that the dinner was open to everyone.
“We want it to be for everybody in the community,” Anderson said. “It is definitely for those who are not able to afford their own Christmas dinner, but this is really about building community camaraderie.”
Baker said support from corporate donors was strong again this year.
“We’ve had a very positive response from everyone,” Baker said.
Organizers also had a large crew of volunteers on hand Saturday to prepare and serve plates of food, coffee and juice and pie for dessert.
There was also a colouring corner set up for children.
And Santa Claus also turned out to visit with children and adults and listen to Christmas wish lists.
Fort Macleod Kids First Family Centre was also on hand to accept donations of cash and gift items for the Secret Santa program.
Donations were also accepted for the Salvation Army food bank in Fort Macleod.
Organizers have already committed to serve another free Christmas dinner in 2012.
“We’re going to have to plan to feed even more people,” Anderson said.

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