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Free Christmas Day Feast is a 'magical' Collingwood tradition

Twelve dedicated elves have been hard at working preparing a feast for the ages; 'No one should be alone on Christmas'
CDF 2018
Guests were happy to see Santa at the Christmas Day Feast last year. Contributed photo

Marg Scheben-Edey and her crew of 12 dedicated elves are inviting anybody who might be in need of a little Christmas spirit to attend their “family dinner” this year.

“No one should be alone on Christmas,” Scheben-Edey says.

Scheben-Edey and her husband, John, created the Christmas Day Feast for that very reason.

Several years ago, the couple was looking to volunteer their time over the holidays and reluctantly realized there were no community events in Collingwood on Christmas Day.

Thinking it just wasn’t right, they called up 10 of their friends and asked if they wanted to help cook Christmas dinner next year.

“Everybody asked, ‘For who?’ And I said I don’t know… Anybody in the community who needs dinner on Christmas Day,” said Scheben-Edey. “Without hesitation, everyone said they were in. We had no idea if anybody would show up that first year.”

But the first year ended up being a massive success. The crew was so overwhelmed with how much joy they were able to bring to the community, they had to make it an annual affair. 

“We had no idea what we were doing, but it evolved in front of our faces,” said Scheben-Edey.

On Wednesday, Dec. 25, the elves, along with almost 100 additional volunteers, will host the sixth-annual Christmas Day Feast at the Collingwood Curling Club.

“It’s pretty magical,” said Scheben-Edey. “We are so grateful for the continuing support from the community to make this all possible.”

The planning committee, all equipped with a personal elf name and a heart full of Christmas spirit, have been working hard since September planning logistics, raising funds, organizing volunteers and arranging food, rentals, and entertainment.

The feast is free to attend and all are welcome. If you’re new to town, far from family, or have financial or emotional barriers that make hosting a Christmas dinner difficult, or if you simply want to enjoy the holiday cheer with others in the community, the Christmas Day Feast might be the perfect place for you.

“Everyone has their own reason and story for being there,” said Shelby Wort, known as Elf Twinkle Toes, who serves as the marketing and outreach coordinator for the feast. “A lot of the outside world thinks this is a free dinner for those in need. Yes, it is for need, but 'need' has so many different interpretations.”

As with many of the elves, Wort makes the event a family affair.

Scheben-Edey, also known as Elf Hug-a-Lot, has four generations of her family volunteering with her at the event as well.

Without putting out a single call for volunteers, they have a waitlist of community members willing to donate their time over the holidays to helping out. In the past two years, the committee hasn’t even had to ask for any donations.

Chef Simon Bailey has taken over cooking the food for the feast, which he prepares in a larder generously donated by Men with Knives Catering. He uses his connections to get turkeys donated from different food suppliers.

Giffen’s Country Market donates apples for the delicious homemade apple pie, and Ace Cabs provides a beautiful bus to help pick up anyone who requires transportation.

Other sponsors include The Rotary Club of Collingwood, Northwinds Brewhouse and Kitchen, Tim Hortons, The Print Shop, B & B Catering, A’s Supply, GeorgianBay Signworks, Come to Our Table Community Cookbook, Sysco, Community Connection, and so many others who have provided financial support and resources to make the annual event possible.

 “It really is a community-driven event. From the food, money and donations, to the facility, the volunteers and the guests, every aspect is truly rooted in our community,” said Scheben-Edey.

Along with the home-style meal with all the fixings, the event includes seasonal entertainment and carolers welcoming the guests as they arrive, activities for the children, a photographer on-site and a little something for the adults to take home.

“It’s funny, we get some people now who come and say they want to sit at the same table with the friends they made last year. Some of the kids run up and give us hugs. We have gotten to know each other over the years and become a Christmas family,” said Scheben-Edey.

It usually takes a Christmas miracle, but they end up feeding over 200 people on Christmas Day, and hear incredible stories that will warm your heart. 

“We’re always in tears on Christmas Day,” said Wort. “There are so many magical stories. You really feel the sense of community and Christmas spirit.”

“Kindness spreads, you know. And goodwill. When you are in a room full of people who are sharing and caring and happy, it just puts the magic back in Christmas for me. It’s magic overload,” agreed Sheben-Edey.

For more information or to find out how to reserve your spot, visit the Christmas Day Feast website.

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Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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