Five years ago, when West Kildonan Collegiate was in its former location on Main Street, it hosted its first invitation-only community Christmas dinner. The tradition has continued and this year about 70 students will host approximately 120 members of the community on Dec. 12.
The student-driven dinner began as a way to connect with the school’s neighbours. Students are sometimes considered nuisances in neighbourhoods near schools, so this dinner gives them an opportunity to be seen in a positive light. Many of the neighbours who attend the dinner keep an eye out on the school during non-school hours and inviting them for a meal is one way to thank them.
"Another reason we started this dinner is because some people don’t have family to share a Christmas dinner with," explained Shane Dilka, a home economics teacher. "Many of the community members come early or stay late because they love talking to the students. The kids love it, too!"
Although West Kildonan Collegiate is now at its new location on Ridgecrest Avenue, the school still feels tied to its former location and a few people from the neighbourhood around the school’s previous home still attend the dinner.
Invitations for this year’s dinner were delivered to the Broadstreet apartment complex beside the school, as well as the new 55-plus building, River Ridge, being constructed across the street.
Dilka said the event draws volunteers from all grade levels, including sports teams, student council and groups such as SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco). All students are encouraged to participate, regardless of whether they are members of clubs or groups.
Students volunteer to greet guests at the door, operate a coat check and cook and serve the food.
The meal itself is a full-service turkey dinner with all the trimmings. All the food is made from scratch in the food services lab under Dilka’s guidance. Seven turkeys have been donated by Food System Management, the company which runs the school cafeteria. Guests will dine in the beautifully decorated commons area.
The school choir will welcome dinner guests with carols and, later into the event; school principal Gerry Corr will give a speech.
Such a wonderful display of hospitality by West Kildonan students and staff is sure to brighten this holiday season.
Christina Hiebert is a community correspondent for Riverbend and Rivergrove. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.