Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Giving thanks for generosity

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If you're looking for a lovely gourmet Thanksgiving dinner, you could make a reservation at The Fairmont Winnipeg. You won't have to get your hands dirty, it'll taste great and probably be pretty swanky. It'll cost you about $50 a plate.

If you want to eat at home (and maybe convince your nearest and dearest you're a better cook than you really are), you could place an order and pick up The Fairmont's cooked turkey and trimmings dinner, boxed and ready to go. That starts at $375 and goes up according to how many people you're feeding.

What if you're a core-area elementary school and The Fairmont is catering your Thanksgiving meal for 400 people? In that case, it's free.

Machray School held its third-annual Thanksgiving dinner for students and their families Thursday afternoon. Thanks to the efforts of some corporate supporters, what might have been a bit of a letdown became an unforgettable act of kindness.

The story begins with Qualico's Jordan Farber. His company runs a tree-planting program that takes elementary school kids out of the city and lets them get up close and personal with nature.

Last year, grades 4, 5 and 6 students from Machray and Qualico staff planted 1,000 trees in a reclaimed gravel pit in the RM of Reynolds. The Qualico team was invited to the Thanksgiving dinner in return, accepted and helped serve the potatoes and stuffing.

When principal Gord Armstrong asked if the Qualico group wanted to come back this year, Farber was happy to help. Armstrong told him they'd be serving hotdogs, because the R.B. Russell school kitchen that normally cooks their turkeys wasn't available.

"We thought they deserved a turkey dinner," says Farber, "but we build homes. We don't have 20 ovens at our disposal."

The meals have to be prepared in a kitchen that meets health standards.

So Farber got busy. His mother was a Fairmont employee for 40 years and he had his wedding there this summer. He picked up the phone, called general manager Michael Pye, and asked if they could spare the oven space.

The hotel did better than that.

Executive chef Jeremy Langemann used his contacts to source the turkeys, offered to make the stuffing, gravy and mashed potatoes and veggies. He got his contacts to donate bread and butter and a chocolate brownie for dessert.

His kitchen was busy making the feast Thursday.

"I figured it was for the kids, so we should kick it up a bit," Langemann says.

While he was at it, he asked Fairmont staff to serve the meal.

Principal Armstrong says the annual meal is a great chance for the school to reach out to the community, introduce its staff and help families understand what's going on inside the building.

"All the people that support the school come," he says.

There are 212 students in the nursery to Grade 6 school. Kids bring their extended families to the meal, raising the number of meals served to about 400.

"We've had three generations at the same table," Armstrong says. "We wanted to do this as a celebration of our school."

His school patrols were scheduled to give a demonstration, as were Machray's ace jump-rope team.

"This is an important event for us," Armstrong says. "It's more than a meal. It's about welcoming our community into our school."

And this year, it's about the business community pitching in to help feed that extended family. What's that worth? It's priceless.

-- -- --

Many of you have asked if Heidi Bousseau's ("I'm the nobody from nowhere") housing problem has been resolved. Yes and no. She can stay in her Sussex Realty apartment until the end of November, when her sublet expires. She's searching for a wheelchair-accessible place she can afford after that.

Bousseau's decided to set up her daybed and unpack a few other things while she searches. She's had offers of help with the unpacking.

One more priceless piece of news? A Free Press reader invited Bousseau to share Thanksgiving with her family. This year, I'm thankful we have people like her in our city.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2012 B1

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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