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Christmas Day volunteering comfortable for many, strange to some

Volunteer Theresa quickly arranges several hundred sweets for the Penticton Soupateria Christmas dinner yesterday. Roughly 60 people attended.
December 26, 2013 - 11:21 AM

PENTICTON - Too many happy people, many of them smiling, at the Soupateria yesterday morning. It was disturbing.

I being there was equally as weird. I wore an apron, a name tag and served delicious garlic buns and cranberry sauce. Why was I not at home sitting in a pile of torn wrapping paper and drinking spiked coffee? What was I doing there? What was anyone doing there? And why was I suprised about how cheery the place looked?

This was Christmas Day morning. When I was a kid I had nightmares of being stuck in school on Dec. 25 while my brother claimed all my presents as his own. I was now working for free, for six hours, on my most laziest of days. I did this partly to cover it as a story and partly because my wife asked me to. It's debatable if I'll do it again. I'm just not that guy. My entire life's volunteer experiences can be counted on one hand.

When I arrived I became a cog in this well-oiled machine. My first job was to open cans of cranberry sauce and pour the bits into tiny white cups which began to stick to my hands after 10 minutes. I filled three trays with cranberry servings and began my new job as fly paper as I was that sticky. I'm kidding. I still had an hour to wait for the Soupateria to open. I listened to the veteran volunteers catch up on what each other was doing. A few guests dropped by and sat outside for a smoke. Someone brought them coffee.

At 11:30 a.m. people came inside, signed the guest book and sat down for a meal. I manned my station like I was on a submarine adding sliced buns and cranberry containers to each of the plates of turkey, carrots, peas, stuffing, potatoes, gravy and ham. Each plate made me hungrier than the last.

Most of the guests were regulars to the Soupateria. Some of them were my neighbours. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) only about 60 of them attended Christmas Day. Eight turkeys were cooked but only three were used. Volunteers were surprised and some theorized many of the regulars were with families or friends. Those who did come ate quickly at the decorated tables and left. A few thanked the volunteers.

The Soupateria slowly closed for business around 12:30 p.m. Volunteers grabbed their own meals and ate with one another. I quickly gobbled my vittles and waited for my wife to grab some cake. We then walked on empty streets heading home. It's doubtful I'll be back next year. I'm grateful for the experience but I missed wearing my 'jammies, sipping hot cocoa, curling up next to the tree and watching my wife unwrap her gifts and cover our cats in wrapping paper.

To contact a reporter for this story, to send photos or videos, email Shannon Quesnel at squesnel@infotelnews.ca, call 250-488-3065, send tweets to @shannonquesnel1 or @InfoNewsPentict.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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