Staff at Prince Albert Grand Council knows that not everyone has a table to gather round for Christmas dinner, so this year it’s providing people with a meal.
PAGC hosted its first-ever Christmas meal at Prince Albert’s Margo Fournier Centre on Wednesday, complete with a visit from Santa Claus to give gifts to the children.
“We hope this is the first of many. We often hear a lot of people saying that we’re not doing enough for our people on the streets in Prince Albert,” said PAGC events coordinator Sheryl Kimbley.
“There’s a lot of good people doing meals out there already, and we just thought there can never be enough at this time of the season especially.”
Kolan Tucker has seen the Christmastime generosity in Prince Albert firsthand. He said he has a job despite past struggles, but many of his homeless friends have been enjoying the different holiday meals around the city. One of his friends won a leather jacket at an event the day before.
“There’s a lot of people that are real happy they’re being helped out and they’re not used to being helped out,” Tucker said.
Kimbley noted how many people lined up at the doors before the meal was ready, saying social media and word of mouth did the trick for the event. She said the word spread fast, even though they just started planning last month.
“Once the word hits the streets, unfortunately there’s not a lack of people that need food and some place to come and have coffee and warm up over the season,” she said.
The gathering of friends and family led to a lot of hugs and created a festive atmosphere.
That’s a relief for homeless and poor people in the city. Earlier this year, Prince Albert’s Share-a-Meal service, which provided daily meals, shut down.
Tucker gives a sense of what Christmas is like for the homeless people he knows.
“People are happy. It’s good, it’s good to see this. It’s getting harder and harder to get food from the food bank. The struggle is real,” he said with a wry laugh.
The reality isn’t pretty in some cases, Tucker said.
“They’re dealing by doing crystal meth. They can’t get food, can’t afford food so they spend $20 on crystal meth and they don’t have to eat for a couple of days. And that’s not a solution you know,” he said.
There have been a few organizations to step in and fill the void left by Share-a-Meal’s closure, like the Church of Nazarene and a mobile truck that comes downtown every day, offering sandwiches and coffee.
PAGC, the City of Prince Albert, Northern Lights Casino, Prince Albert Multicultural Council, and donations from local businesses made the event possible.