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Ridgeway Lions Cook 700 Christmas Dinners For the Community

Christine Whelan FEO, January 4, 2024, VOL. 5 ISSUE 9

On the evening of Thursday, December 21st, the Ridgeway Lions Club partnered up with the Friends of Crystal Beach to once again successfully host their annual Christmas Dinner “to support those in need and the lonely”, as their flyer invited. The crew prepared 700 turkey dinners with all the fixings at the Crystal Ridge Community Centre.

I popped in during the dinner as the hall began to fill up. Met first with smiles and greetings, I was led past the tree full of hanging gloves and hats waiting to be worn, bags of candies on a large table waiting to be eaten, and of course, Santa. Finally, I was directed behind the serving counter, lined with Lionesses, to Bruce Schinkel, a Ridgeway Lions Club member who has participated in this community event with the Lions for 21 years.

Looking Back

When asked about how the annual Christmas dinners got started, Bruce reflected that the event has evolved over the years. It began with the efforts of two women from their church who cooked meals at Christmas time to bring those in need together. When the women couldn’t handle the required work involved anymore, their church took it over. The church then turned to Bruce and the Ridgeway Lions Club.

“We had as many as 300 people here before the pandemic.”

This year, on December 21st, the members volunteered to make 700 meals. “This year, we cooked for the satellite locations all across Fort Erie.”

He explained, “We used to have busing. Since COVID, we’ve connected with the Crystal Ridge Dream Centre, Fort Erie Food Initiative, The Legion, The Village Church in Stevensville, and the Crystal Ridge Community Church. They’ve all decided to be satellite locations. We asked them how many meals they expected to need, and how many people they expected would be coming through their doors, and we sent the meals to them,” all making up the 700.

Bruce stated that the meals that didn’t get eaten at the event in past years have been given to the Crystal Ridge Community Church to give out on Christmas Day. “No food is wasted.”

The locations are networked, and organized for smoother service, maintaining communications to ensure everyone receives a meal.

Nourishment: Not Just Food

Bruce noted that residents have come in the door to contribute a donation towards the campaign. “Seniors come in for a meal and chat with others, maybe those who have recently lost a spouse. We encourage that. And they donate.”

Bruce sees that, when looking back throughout the years, the need is stronger now, more than ever. The need touches areas never felt before. He reminds us that just because there is a need, the comfort level to reach out doesn’t always align. This is an important message these days for all community programs. The awareness of the struggle for those who are newly in need is clear.

“People are in need, not just for this meal, but always, weekly.”

The Collaborative Effort

Schinkel commented about their co-sponsors, the Friends of Crystal Beach, “They donate every year. They are a part of this.” Adding, “The Stevensville Kinettes supported us this year as well.”

He mentioned that the women who are serving the food have been doing so for years and have gotten to know their guests. Friendly conversations ensue.

Some of those who stepped up to volunteer were asked to stay home, Bruce said, unfortunately. There would be just too many people serving.

“This is good for all our hearts.”

As I spoke with Bruce behind the serving counter, Wayne Gates, MPP, walked in, all smiles and greeting the women serving the guests. You never know who will show up at these events.

The Ridgeway Lions Club, based out of the Crystal Ridge Community Centre, located at 99 Ridge Road, Ridgeway, has been serving the Greater Fort Erie community since 1931. To learn more about, and keep updated on, the Ridgeway Lions Club, go to their website:  www.ridgewaylionsclub.org/

Photos by C Whelan

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