Active community volunteer Vanessa van Rensburg is organizing her third annual Christmas dinner. The initiative looks to bring people together over a warm meal during Christmas Day. 

The third annual Christmas dinner invites people to order someone else a meal for Christmas. For $30, a person can buy someone a dinner meal for Christmas day, which will be delivered by volunteers on their behalf. 

In 2020, Vanessa van Rensburg organized what she deems as her most significant volunteer work in the community, the 2020 Christmas dinner.

“That year people didn’t want to come out of their houses, people weren’t allowed to visit, some are setting boundaries by telling their families ‘you can’t come,” she explained.

“I know there are a lot of seniors in Merritt who would’ve spent their time alone if no one had reached out to them so that’s why we did that first Christmas dinner.” 

With the help of Ryan Weatherbie, the Merritt Centennials, John Stuart, and her family, Van Rensburg was able to prepare and distribute 106 christmas dinners. This resulted in another year of doing dinners. This time around, Van Rensburg and company were motivated to reach people who lost their properties and belongings to the flood. 

“Each person got gift vouchers, and presents for the kids, it was a very big thing the second year.” 

Van Rensburg was able to serve 160 dinners to the people of Merritt. She credits the success of the program to the volunteers who work tirelessly to prepare, and deliver the meals.

“I must stress that everyone involved is volunteering their time,” she said. “No one receives payment at all.”

Van Rensburg is the event organizer and coordinator. She is assisted by her family, with her husband Sydney van Rensburg providing access to their base of operations, and her children Aiden and Kate assisting with tasks like gift wrapping, sorting, and organizing, while Nathan helps Sydney with deliveries.

Ryan Weatherbie is the chef and prepares the meals in the days leading up to Christmas. Various ladies supply baked goods as an extra treat to accompany meals. The delivery elves to help Sydney and Nathan are John Stuart & Co, and Zach Wright.  

There are a few girl guides under the direction of Susan Doncaster, who crafted beautiful Christmas cards and a number of donations were collected from local businesses such as Miss Vicki’s and Earth and Soul Collections.

“Everyone deserves to experience the joy of the Festive Season,” said van Rensburg. “The Canadian winters can be so harsh, dreary and gray, and no one should be forgotten. There needn’t be a disaster for people to stand together.

Dinners will be prepared at the Merritt Golf & Country Club. Because of Avian Flu, there will be no turkey dinners served this year.  Meals may include a variety of meats, potatoes, vegetables and all the fixings, some sweet treats and drinks.

The dinner will be delivered to Merritt and Lower Nicola on Christmas day, from 12 to 6 p.m. Deadline to book a meal will be on Monday, December 19. Please contact (250) 315-8413 or email [email protected] for more information.