At Mustard Seed Christmas Dinner, everyone gets a chance to be special

To Terry Emslie, nothing beats Christmas, even if it comes in November.

“And it will always give you that feeling of love and everything that comes with it,” he said, sitting down to Christmas dinner with hundreds of others at the Bay Street Armoury on Sunday evening.

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Emslie was one of more than 800 people who enjoyed a three-course meal served by volunteers at the 42nd annual Mustard Seed Christmas Dinner. The meal, which serves people who are homeless or have a low income, is made possible by the Times Colonist Christmas Fund.

He’s been coming to the dinner for more than 10 years.

“I like the feeling of closeness,” said Emslie, who lived for a time in Victoria’s tent city. “You feel like you’re going to a party.”

The night was a chance for Emslie and others to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season free from the judgment of others.

“Tonight’s a night that people treat me as I’m special, and I’m going to treat the people I meet tonight as they’re special as well. And they’re going to go home tonight knowing that they were loved by somebody,” he said.

More than 200 volunteers helped to put on the event. Professional chef Ryan Orr and his kitchen crew donated their time to prepare 325 pounds of turkey and 170 litres of gravy, and peeled 550 pounds of potatoes over three days.

Gordo Carroll, who works on the Mustard Seed’s hospitality crew, said it’s known as one of the best dinners in town, thanks to the food — and to the guests.

“Some of the nicest people I’ve ever met are here. Some of the most giving people I’ve ever met are here,” Carroll said.

He enjoys seeing the community come together for a night of celebration.

“You can see people engaged in conversation that never would be at that same table having a meal, but today they do,” he said.

Jade Elk has been coming to the dinner for several years. She enjoyed her turkey dinner with her two daughters, her mother and her boyfriend. She said the event symbolizes family, friends and great good.

“I’m really happy that they keep having it every year. It’s a blessing,” she said.

The Mustard Seed’s Janiene Boice said the night is about more than just a meal.

“We believe in people and we celebrate every individual’s incredible value and worth. This Christmas dinner is about our guests and we hope that they feel loved this evening,” she said.

Boice said the dinner kicks off the holiday season and is made possible by the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, which raised more than $308,000 last year.

“We do our Christmas hamper program because of the Times Colonist, as well as this dinner because of the Times Colonist,” she said.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

Donate to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund

• Go to timescolonist.com/donate. That takes you to the Canada Helps website, which is open 24 hours a day and provides an immediate tax receipt.

• Mail a cheque, payable to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund Society, to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, 2621 Douglas St., Victoria V8T 4M2.

• Use your credit card by phoning 250-995-4438 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. Outside those hours, leave a message, we’ll call back.

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