Carving turkeys, scooping mashed potatoes, wrapping gifts, washing dishes and bringing around the dessert tray are just some of the jobs volunteers do to make a Brandon tradition run smooth.
The 28th annual Westman and Area Traditional Christmas Dinner in the Keystone Centre was held from noon until 6 p.m. on Tuesday, with a full hot turkey dinner, live entertainment and gifts for children 12 and under.
"It takes about 350 volunteers to run the event on the day of — and on top of that there’s the days leading up to it, there’s so many little jobs that people are happy to do," said Deb Draper, a board member for the dinner who has been volunteering for the past 15 years.
She said last year’s dinner drew more than 2,200 people to the Keystone, and about the same number for meals delivered to shut-ins within the city limits.
The dinner is one of Draper’s favourite days of the year.
"There are people here that I see every year, and I don’t even know their names, but you always get a few big hugs, big smiles, and a lot of laughs. It’s something that everyone seems to really enjoy," she said.
Volunteers range from children who help to push the dessert cart, to seniors.
Pam King has driven two hours from Crystal City, just north of the U.S. border, to volunteer over the last 10 years.
The best gift you can get over Christmas in volunteering here — everyone is so grateful for your work," she said.
Pam worked as a server for this year’s event, and said it feels great being able to help make a family’s day special.
"It’s just delightful to watch everyone. There’s nobody here without a smile," she said.
Draper said the best part of the dinner and the people who work on it, is how easy it is to get volunteers.
"It’s a lot of the same people, or family. My kids started volunteering when they were around eight years old, and now they’re here with my grandkids," she said.
Draper said she expects there would have been around the same amount of people at the dinner this year, but there are no official numbers.