Hundreds of seniors were treated to a festive dinner as part of a longtime East York holiday tradition.
Approximately 230 invited guests dined on roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables and more during the annual East York Seniors Christmas Dinner at the East York Community Centre.
Toronto-Danforth Councillor Mary Fragedakis and volunteers were on hand to hand out gift bags to the seniors, who were also treated to a special cake commemorating the event’s 30th anniversary.
“It’s a great tradition,” said Fragedakis. “It’s really nice a lot of people want to share their holiday with others in the community.”
The first seniors’ Christmas dinner was held back in 1982 by then East York mayor David Johnson. The tradition has been maintained throughout the years by former mayor Michael Prue, former city councillor Case Ootes and now Fragedakis, who was first elected in 2010.
“When I took office, the first 20 calls I took were from people in community wondering if I would cancel Christmas dinner,” said Fragedakis.
“I said, “Of course not; that’s akin to firing Santa Claus.’”
The guests received their tickets for the dinner by lining up at the East York Civic Centre over two days in December. Approximately 215 advance tickets were given out for the popular event which took a month to organize. Local seniors were given priority.
Led by long-time volunteer Kam Babulal, approximately 50 organizers took part in organizing the dinner, from initial set-up to serving the meal and taking part in clean-up afterward. And Santa Claus, as he’s done for the last 30 years, was also on hand to exchange Christmas greetings with the guests.
All of the food served at the dinner was prepared by Sammy’s Eatery, located at 158 O’Connor Dr.
Beaches-East York MPP Prue, Beaches-East York Councillor Janet Davis and Don Valley West Councillor John Parker were also at the event.
Fragedakis, whose mother, father and sister all volunteered at the event said the dinner was an opportunity to provide local seniors, many of whom were widowed or without family, with some much needed Christmas cheer.
“Helping people less fortunate and serving the elderly a good meal and providing people with an opportunity to come together speaks to who we are as East Yorkers and Torontonians,” she said.
“It just speaks to our humanity.”