For years before the pandemic hit, there was a tradition of a community Christmas dinner in Jasper. The Jasper Royal Canadian Legion played host, sponsors and volunteers provided and prepared a feast for anyone wanting to join in the festivities, and the night was always a success.
However, with COVID in full swing last Christmas, it was determined that the dinner at the Legion could not safely go ahead as usual.
Rather than accept that the dinner be cancelled, many community members came together to ensure that those looking to enjoy a hearty holiday meal would still have one.
Instead of gathering at the Legion, Lynn Wannop, owner of Coco’s Café, decided that the meals could be prepared at her restaurant and then delivered to those who wanted them.
With help from her husband, Andrew, their staff and other volunteers, 124 meals were prepared and delivered during Christmas 2020.
While the pandemic continues to take away many of the simple joys in life, one thing COVID has not taken from some Jasperites is their love of community-building.
And so, the Christmas dinner continued uninterrupted again this year.
For the second year in a row the meal was prepared at Coco’s Cafe. This year, volunteer drivers delivered 150 meals, once again prepared by Wannop and a gang of volunteers.
Knowing the demand for meals would be greater than 2020, Wannop called on Glenda MacDowell, aka Glenda the Great Catering, for her dessert skills. Without hesitating, MacDowell prepared enough pumpkin pie to feed 175 people.
When asked what inspired her to take on responsibility for continuing the dinner tradition, Wannop said, “Last year it was born out of necessity…. I reached out to Community Outreach Services (COS), who said it wasn’t going to happen because there was no one to do it, so I decided I would just do it. And this year, same reason, it just wasn’t going to happen, so I decided we’d do it (again).”
Wannop was adamant that none of it would have been possible without support and organization from COS and the Jasper Community Team Society (JCTS).
In speaking with Lisa Riddell, community development manager with Community and Family Services, she put the praise back on Wannop.
“The key was an offer as generous as Lynn’s. (COS) was more than happy to support her,” Riddell said.
Riddell said her role was more about the logistics, about contacting those she knew to call on to ensure everything for the dinner came together.
“The funding came from the JCTS (who are) in the business of fundraising for the community,” said Riddell.
“Because we have this outreach program, and because we have (JCTS), it allows us to connect the dots, it allows us to take advantage of offers such as Lynn’s.”
Both Riddell and Wannop stressed that having the necessary community infrastructure already in place was essential to the success of the dinner and the many other services made possible by the generosity of the JCTS and its donors.
“We had somewhere to turn…. That’s the nice thing about a small town that’s as close as we are, we’re so lucky to have access to what we do,” Wannop added.To donate to JCTS and support its causes, visit www.jaspercommunityteamsociety.ca.
Jason Stockfish, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh