Festive meals aplenty for those in need
KITCHENER -- Dana Brideau says Waterloo region is "right up there" when it comes to generosity -- especially around Christmas time.
Brideau, who lives in Cambridge, knows of what he speaks.
He has lived on the streets in many communities, battled a drug habit and depends on soup kitchens like the weekend one sponsored by the St. Teresa conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society at the former St. Mary's High School building in downtown Kitchener.
Brideau and a few of the 156 other men, women and children who took advantage of the regular mid-afternoon buffet, stopped to chat with The Record about their holiday meal plans.
Beginning tomorrow and through Christmas Day, there are 11 dinners at various churches and centres in the region that will have a Yule atmosphere.
After Dec. 25, two K-W churches are hosting special buffets.
Just where and when the needy can get a meal and enjoy some fellowship is contained in a list, distributed by The Working Centre and St. John's Kitchen. It has been made widely available and is prominently posted at many locations.
Brideau showed off a nifty Colorado Avalanche coat he'd been given recently as an example of the goodwill of people in this area -- who ensure the hungry are not only fed but also provided with other necessities such as decent clothing and footwear.
"This is worth at least 50 bucks," Brideau said, turning around to show the Avalanche logo on the back.
"This town goes out of its way to help people. It's on the map, right up there as far as I'm concerned."
Brideau doesn't know how many pre- and post-Christmas dinners he'll attend, but one will likely be at the Vineyard Church in Cambridge next Sunday. That's because he helps clean up after other meals at the Elgin Street North location.
There are four locations providing Christmas Day meals.
St. Thomas Anglican Church at Francis and Tait streets in Cambridge will serve dinner at 5:30 p.m. for the 11th year. It is the only place in Cambridge to offer the service and prospective diners are asked to call 621-7790.
The House of Friendship men's hostel on Charles Street in Kitchener will host a men-only dinner beginning at 2 p.m. while ROOF at 242 Queen St. will do the same for those aged 12 to 25 from 1 to 6 p.m.
St. John's Kitchen will serve a lasagna dinner on Christmas day at St. John the Evangelist Church at Duke and Water streets in Kitchener, said Joe Mancini, executive director of The Working Centre, which runs the Kitchen.
Volunteers, including members of the Baha'i community, are a huge help.
"It's often tough getting volunteers on Christmas but it's great to see all the groups participate in providing food for others," said Mancini. "That's the Christmas spirit."
Members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society will continue a tradition that's now more than a decade old as they play host at St. John's Kitchen on Christmas Eve. This year, local Swiss Chalet restaurants will donate the food.
Tomorrow, ROOF is sponsoring a dinner at Trinity United Church on Frederick Street in Kitchener for persons ages 12 to 25 beginning at 5 p.m.
St. Mark's Lutheran Church on King Street West, which hosts a weekly Wednesday supper throughout the year, will have a Christmas theme for its regular meal on Wednesday at 5:45 p.m.
On Friday, Trinity Anglican Church on Blair Road in Cambridge will have an 11:30 a.m. Christmas lunch and on Dec. 23, OASIS in Market Lane in Kitchener will have a 7 p.m. Christmas dinner.
On Boxing Day, First United Church at William and King streets in Waterloo will serve a buffet between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. while St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church at Weber and Queen streets in Kitchener will have a New Year's Day buffet beginning at 11:30 a.m.
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