Sharing and caring are two words closely linked to the upcoming holiday season. While many of us have comfortable homes and loving families to bring joy and meaning to our celebrations, there are plenty of people in Ottawa who face the prospect of a very different experience, whether through poverty or isolation. Ottawa at Home shines an appreciative spotlight on several groups of volunteers who work tirelessly to deliver warmth and hot meals to those in need.
Heart & Crown Irish Pubs
On December 25, the Heart & Crown Irish Pubs will be marking two decades of feeding the less fortunate - it's an event initiated by owners Larry Bradley and Pat Kelly the year they opened their first pub. "They both come from Ireland where Christmas is about celebrating with everyone around your area, not just immediate family like we tend to do here in Canada," explains Alex Munro, the pub group's vice-president of business operations.
"They felt it essential to give back and decided to serve a full holiday dinner with all the trimmings at lunchtime, so anyone who wished could come in and enjoy the spirit of the day by receiving some warm, seasonal food. They also enjoy giving everyone a little wrapped gift to open, such as socks, mitts or a toque, knowing full well that these people wouldn't otherwise receive anything on that special day."
In 1992, Larry and Pat served about 25 guests at their ByWard Market establishment. In 2011, the large team of volunteers fed close to 500 people on Christmas Day, catering to the needy, the homeless or the lonely.
"Much of the food is generously donated by our suppliers, and we supplement it with food from our pubs. The gifts are similarly donated by suppliers as well as our regular customers who share in our commitment to giving back to the community. Our staff and these same valued customers all volunteer their time to work this event," says Alex. "There is a lot of pre-planning to ensure everything is executed effectively. We will continue to do this as long as the pubs are around. It is very humbling to be a part of such a great day."
The Newport Restaurant
After almost two decades, one of Ottawa's most well-known Christmas Day rituals will be drawing to a close at the iconic Newport Restaurant. Rita Hansen of the Elvis Sighting Society notes that the Newport's imminent move to a smaller location nearby will mean the end of this well-attended event which sees as many as 1000 patrons treated to a lavish dinner, with several hundred more meals delivered by paramedics to those unable to make it to the restaurant. Owner Moe Attalah and the entire Elvis Sighting Society are looking forward to celebrating Christmas Day for the twentieth and final time at the Newport his year, offering a warm welcome to those who would like to spend some time with them, enjoying good food and genuine hospitality.
The Carleton Tavern
Owners of the Carleton Tavern, the Saikaley family, in partnership with the Hintonburg Economic Development Committee, serve up over 600 meals on white linen to those who heed the message: "Why be alone on Christmas Day?" This year will mark the twelfth edition, which also sees more than 150 meals provided for takeout or delivery to shut-ins. The mood is very festive inside the Carleton Tavern on December 25, with scores of volunteers helping out by donating food, cooking, serving meals, providing live entertainment and coordinating gifts for guests. It's a cheerful, memorable event that brightens the day for everyone and draws the community together in a very special way.
Cuisine & Passion
Chefs Marc and Chantal Miron of Cuisine & Passion in Orleans will once again be spending the last few days before Christmas preparing and packing holiday feasts for numerous deserving east-end families. A tradition they established in 2008, the dinners will be distributed this year with the help of the Cumberland Community Centre and its team of volunteers. A heart-warming twist on this generous exercise is that Cuisine & Passion's customers and other members of the public sponsor many of the meals. "We were overwhelmed last year by the positive response from our customers," says Marc. "They were so glad to donate and help those in our immediate community."