Hopedale elders treated to Christmas dinner
In a 1998 report on the Aboriginal Seniors Information Project, Indigenous seniors expressed a need for information on recreation, social programs and other activities, indicating that they want more opportunities to connect with friends, family and other seniors, and that these programs help them do so.
Similarly, they want information on cultural events and activities such as gatherings of elders and traditional programs.
We all know the value of reaching out to seniors at special times of the year, more especially at Christmas. Hopedale, like countless other communities around the world, is no different when it comes to celebrating elders at this time of the year.
The first Sunday in Advent marks the beginning of the fourSunday Christmas Day countdown for many churches, the Moravian Church being one of these. Hopedale’s barren landscape necessitates a lengthy snowmobile trip to cut even the smallest of Advent trees. Sunday, Dec. 2 this year was the first Sunday in Advent, so for two days previous, residents were busy finding that special tree to decorate and then hang Advent stockings for their expectant children.
From children to elders, all have their own unique interpretation of Christmas and what they take away from it. This is the second year that Amos Comenius Memorial School (ACMS) has hosted an Elders’ Christmas Dinner.
This special event for Hopedale 65+ seniors treats them to some pre-Christmas pampering all the way from a written hand-delivered invitation to being picked up by students at their homes. They can then sit back and enjoy a mouthwatering student/teacher/community-prepared meal. And no dishes to do after all is said and done, at least not for the honoured invitees.
In 2016, ACMS vice-principal and adult basic education teacher Eileen Flowers noted that students were especially happy when a few teachers joined them for a school Christmas Dinner.
“That’s when I thought how good it would be to have the students’ elders join them,” Flowers said.
So last year, was first time that she and ACMS High School Students organized a cooked turkey dinner with all the trimmings and homemade desserts for elders, their spouses, and Grade 10-12 ACMS students.
Organizing the dinner is no small feat. Many puzzle pieces must come together and on time. Eileen Flowers oversees the entire dinner. It doesn’t happen without the help of many school and community individuals carrying out different jobs — designing invitations, compiling and delivering these to elders and their spouses, picking up tables and pots from the Department of Health and Social Development, peeling vegetables, making berry puddings, baking pies and bread rolls, supervising the cooking with the students and washing the dishes. All preparation, settingup, enjoying time with elders, listening to treasured stories, and of course the cleanup at the end all occurred during the course of one day, Dec. 14.
“Last year we had students donate vegetables and the fixings, and the school purchased the meats,” Flowers noted. “However, this year the Kamatsiatet Committee donated the funds to purchase all supplies.”
This committee is comprised of a group of Hopedale individuals affiliated with the Voisey Bay Nickel Company and whose aim is to improve health and wellness, recreation and the local economy.
For this year’s Elders’ Christmas Dinner approximately 40 elders, 45 high school students, and ACMS staff were invited for a total of about 95.
Before dinner, students drove around town to pick up elders who had requested a ride. Students brought them to the school and escorted them into the gym where everything was set-up for their treat. As elders enjoyed their dinners a young and exuberant Grade 1 student, Jonathan Nochasak, played Christmas music on the keyboard.
Trudy Flowers said, “It’s so good to see the elders get out and mix with everyone and to see the young ones helping out so much.”
Andrew Piercy was also happy to join his fellow elders for Christmas dinner.
“It makes me feel good inside to get out and to especially be around everyone,” Piercy said.
Everyone went home that much happier for being included in a celebration of Christmas.
Elder Andrew Piercy and Halle Lucy at the dinner.
From left, Gavin Boase, Holle Lucy, Romain Lampe, and Shavonne Tuglavina wrapping cutlery in preparation for the elders dinner.