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Community Christmas Dinner tradition continues

A long-standing holiday tradition will see another year after fears the COVID-19 pandemic would leave it cancelled.

The Community Christmas Dinner normally serves upwards of 400 people on Christmas Day with a holiday meal.

Sylvia Antinozzi, Chair of the Community Christmas Dinner Committee says this year’s event was “very close” to not happening.

“It was very hard to try and figure out a place big enough that would accept guests during the pandemic,” she explained.

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The Gathering Place, Rebuilt Resources and the City of North Bay have all stepped up to ensure the tradition continues.

Dennis Chippa, Executive Director of The Gathering Place says it was a no-brainer to offer his site as a grounds to help prepare food.

“We’re very excited. In a year where we’re hearing that things can’t happen in the holiday season, to say that this is going to happen no matter what is really exciting,” he said. “This is just something that we absolutely had to do.”

Upping its usual contribution, Rebuilt Resources is donating $3,000 to cover the cost of food. CEO Maureen Brazeau says she wanted to give back to the community for supporting her through the pandemic.

“We’ve had a good year meaning people have really supported us and we’re so fortunate. So we’re just sharing the wealth out there,” she told the media.

The City of North Bay stepped up to provide Memorial Gardens as a location to host the dinner. The lobby of the arena will be able to sit 50 people at a time on Christmas Day and will adhere to COVID-19 protocols.

Sylvia Antinozzi says over 100 volunteers will be split between multiple locations. A volunteer has provided another kitchen in addition to the facilities at The Gathering Place to help cook food.

For Antinozzi, she knows how important the Christmas dinner is for the community.

“Christmas is probably the day where you feel the most lonely when you’re alone and nothing is happening. For me, it’s very important in that sense. That’s why we work for that. It’s a way to give back to the community and share our joy and share the wealth,” she said.

The Community Christmas Dinner will be held from 10:30 am to 2:30 pm on December 25. Gate 2 of Memorial Gardens will be the entrance for anyone wishing to get a meal on Christmas Day.

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