There were 301 turkey dinners served, pictures with Santa Claus, live entertainment, and a gift for everyone who attended the 15th annual Christmas Haven held Christmas Eve at The ACT in Maple Ridge.
Volunteers served a dinner that had all the trimmings of a traditional Christmas meal.
"We were looking for 77 volunteers but about 90 people came and asked if there was something they could do to help," said first-time volunteer Stefany Tunshell.
"I feel it was an overwhelming response," she said while her eyes filled with tears. "To have so many people show up proves that Maple Ridge still has the Christmas spirit.
"This is what it is all about. Not advertising, not presents, not materialistic things, but this," Tunshell said gesturing to the room.
"It is amazing that this event is so unknown because it is free and you don’t need a reservation," she added.
A number of artists performed before, during, and after dinner, including bagpiper Russel Penngali, hula dancers, a brass band, The Green Singers, Maple Ridge Dance Circle, and two guitarists – Rory McRury and Darren Exley.
Christmas Haven is for everyone to enjoy, not just people who have fallen on hard economic times, explained Maple Ridge Maple Ridge Councillor Corisa Bell.
"We have always had a lot of lower-income people attend in the past. But the whole idea of Christmas Haven is for everyone to come together regardless of economic status, so nobody needs to be alone on Christmas Eve," she said. "That’s the heart of the Haven, that the community comes together."
This is Evelyn Jaggard’s first Christmas without her husband Bob, who passed away in March of this year at the age of 80. They were married 58 years.
Evelyn lives in Abbotsford, but came to Maple Ridge on Christmas Eve with her daughter Alyson and Alyson’s family to volunteer.
Bob was a fireman in Burnaby for 32 years and his widow said he would have came if he were still alive.
"But he would have done security with my grandson," Evelyn said. "It’s very nice to be here, it’s very well run, it’s been lovely," she added.
Manfred Karczewski attended the dinner with his 84-year-old mother Lisalote.
The two came over to Canada by boat in 1951 from Germany.
"I escaped East Germany. There was no welfare when we came. I worked. I did house work," said Lisalote. Manfred was two and a half when they came to Canada.
"We arrived in Halifax by boat and I threw my doll off the boat in protest," Manfred said with a laugh, adding that his mother taught herself English by watching TV and listening to Liberace.
"I’m proud of myself for doing it all on my own," she declared.
"I have nobody here except my son, but I’ve had a good time. I still have a good time. Money is no good. You’re health is what matters. I’ve never had it so good," explained Lisalote.
"I love this event. The meal was excellent," Manfred said about the Christmas Haven. He believes in volunteering and has often given his own time to various places around Maple Ridge.
"We have to look after one another," Lisalote added. "I’m happy. I’m really happy."