Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre, fellow VAAC committee members, serve community a holiday feast
Tim Brody - Editor
The Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre (NGFC), with the help of fellow members of Sioux Lookout’s Violence Action & Awareness Committee (VAAC), welcomed the community on Dec.6 for their Annual Christmas Feast.
Ashely Edwards, NGFC Program Manager shared, “I think it went absolutely amazing. The assistance from our community partners made the process so quick and we were able to serve 585 plates to the community in approximately 45 minutes. That number includes 20 plates brought to Supportive Housing Residents and 40 to our Life-Long Care Elder Clients. We also brought full trays of everything to the Emergency Shelter so they could plate meals there for the community members staying there.
Dinner plates included stuffing, ham, mixed vegetables, macaroni salad, turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, dinner roll, and of course, some cranberry sauce
on the side.
Dinner plates were served using a drive-up or walk-up format.
Edwards explained, “When Covid struck we really had to think outside the box when it came to hosting the community events, we have come to be known for over the years. Our Annual Christmas feast has been a community favorite for years and one thing that actually was somewhat of an issue was we were restricted with the amount of people we could host in our main hall comfortably and when Covid restrictions made communal dining unavailable we decided to try “Drive Thru” style. It has actually allowed us to serve many more people than in previous years and I think the community enjoys the convenience and ease of the process. We may return to a mix of both in the coming years to ensure access for everyone.”
A lot of work went into preparing the annual feast with preparations beginning in November.
“We sit down and decide the meal and start preparing an order. Fresh Market has been a wonderful support to our centre when hosting these events. This year our staff of eight each had a role, and we begin meal prep the day before the feast by peeling 200 lbs of potatoes and setting them in the fridge in water overnight. Then we begin cooking turkeys. We have a full commercial kitchen in our centre so having two big ovens really helps when cooking 20 turkeys. We prepare our packing assembly line ensuring we have everything we need to create our “Feast Bags”. The day of the feast we cook the vegetables, stuffing and ham as well as mash the 200 lbs of potatoes. We place all food in warming containers ready to be brought to temperature for plating. An hour or so before the feast begins we plate meals for the elders and supportive housing and deliver it, then we start serving our walk-up and drive-thru community members. All in all, I would say it takes around 10 hours of prep work and 16 in total to host this event. We have such a hardworking dedicated staff here at the centre. The work they put in is just amazing and we are so proud.”
Edwards added, “Our only hope for the evening is to fill as many bellies as we can. It is such a difficult and stressful time for many people and we just want to show the community our love and support.”
Members organizations of VAAC, in addition to NGFC, include Ah-shawah-bin Support Services, Sunset Women’s Aboriginal Circle, St. Andrew’s Church, First Step Women’s Shelter, Ontario Native Women’s Association, and the Northwestern Health Unit.
“We gather periodically through the year and work together on several events that we have similar objectives/mandates and passions for. Some include Sisters in Spirit, Take Back the Night and the Day of Truth and Reconciliation,” Edwards explained. She continued, “This year the Friendship Centre found ourselves short staffed and reached out and asked for support and the VAAC committee obliged! They were instrumental in our “packing” process for the Feast. We had an assembly line where some served while others plated and packed the re-usable bags with the meal, a Christmas ornament, cutlery and dessert… Just a big thank you to the VAAC committee for their support this year as well as Fresh Market for all their assistance. Cannot forget the Community of course, everything we do is for them and we are grateful for the support. Happy Holidays!”