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Free holiday dinner returns to Memorial Gardens on Christmas Day

·3 min read

The Christmas Day Dinner returns this year thanks in part to donations from the Rotary Club of North Bay and Rebuilt Resources.

Both organizations met with members of the Community Christmas Day Dinner Committee at the Gathering Place on Cassells Street this morning to discuss dinner plans.

This year’s dinner will take place at Memorial Gardens at 100 Chippewa Street from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Hosted by the Community Christmas Day Dinner Committee, the free communal holiday feast has “been going on in the community for about 20 or 25 years,” explained Sylvia Antinozzi, the committee’s chair.

She thanked the city for allowing the use of Memorial Gardens, and the Rotary Club, which “helps us every year.”

“And this year, they are buying all of our turkeys,” Antinozzi said.

“The Rotary Club is a service club above all else,” club president Robert Cunningham said. “And we’re really happy to be able to support such a hardworking group of volunteers.”

The Rotary Club has been providing food for the annual dinner for “at least three years,” he mentioned.

Last year, volunteers served over 600 meals during the dinner, and organizers expect similar numbers this Christmas Day.

Antinozzi is busy ordering food for the big day. About 900 pounds of turkey is on the menu, along with all the fixings.

She orders the turkeys from No Frills on McKeown Avenue about a month in advance.

A volunteer crew of about six people will help prepare the meal, overseen by chef Mohamed Jouar and his sous-chef Michael Allen.

Jouar has worked 50 years as a chef, throughout Europe and Morocco and closer to home with stints at the Davedi Club and Ontario Northland.

“He’s been our chef for four years now,” Antinozzi said.

How is it to prepare such a large meal? “I love it because I have a big help,” Jouar said, and “Sylvia is my best friend.”

“The people need food, and we take care of them,” the chef explained.

To help with those food costs, Maureen Brazeau the CEO at Rebuilt Resources presented the dinner committee with a cheque for $3,000.

Brazeau explained that Rebuilt Resources is “a community-based organization here in North Bay and our mission is to stay local, so any of the money made over and above what we need to operate goes back into our community.”

“Rebuilt Resources donates to us every year,” Antinozzi said. She thanked Brazeau “very much for their continued help.”

This year’s meal will be cooked at the Gathering Place, and Dennis Chippa, who operates the Place, is happy to loan out his kitchen.

“It didn’t impact us last year, I don’t anticipate it impacting us this year,” he said. “We’re still going to be able to do what we do and take care of the folks.”

“North Bay is amazing for that,” Antinozzi said, speaking of the support the dinner receives.

“When you need help people are there, you just have to knock at the door and ask,” she added. “People are there to help you.”

Which is the point of the annual dinner, to help those who may be feeling lonely around the holidays, would like some company and festive atmosphere, or who may not be able to afford their own holiday spread.

“Don’t be alone, don’t be hungry,” the event’s poster urges.

For those attending, head to Gate 2 at Memorial Gardens this Christmas Day. COVID restrictions are in place, and diners will need to show proof of double vaccination if eating in. Masks will be worn, unless sitting to eat.

For unvaccinated visitors, take out will be available from 10:00 to 2:00 at Gate 3. A volunteer will be there to greet you.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,

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