SASKATOON — Loretta Baldhead enjoys attending the yearly holiday dinner, jointly organized by the White Buffalo Youth Lodge and the Saskatoon Tribal Council, seeing other relatives, and enjoying the company of their friends.
The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the gathering for two years, but she had the chance to again experience the free dinner, entertainment, and gifts for the kids on Thursday night, Dec. 15, at the youth lodge on 20th Street West.
“We’re glad that this event is back, and it is the first time after two years when the pandemic shut down almost everything. This is a great way for the community to get together and enjoy a nice warm dinner,” Baldhead told SASKTODAY.ca.
“Everybody enjoys it, most especially the kids. This [dinner], the kind gesture, makes people happy. We are thankful for the organizers and the staff that helps us. We know it’s much work organizing this event, and we are very thankful. We commend them for the work they’ve done.”
She’s been going with her family since the yearly dinner started in the early 2000s. It provides a warm dinner to the needy, especially the vulnerable community members, during the cold winter months.
“It saves me from cooking. I know my way in the kitchen, but everybody else’s cooking is better than mine,” Baldhead, who came with her other daughter and 13-year-old granddaughter, added with a laugh.
Toys and other gifts were also provided to the kids, with Baldhead’s granddaughter getting a sled that she could enjoy playing with when temperatures are not at the extreme-cold weather during the winter.
Welcome to everyone
WBYL Executive Director Jolon Lafond said they prepared meals that could feed 2,000 people, with some deciding to eat in the gymnasium of their facility while others took home the food offered.
“This is everyone from our community. Anybody can come in, eat and take part in the celebration. We also have over 600 gifts prepared for the kids. This event won’t be held if not for our partners and donors,” Lafond told SASKTODAY.
“All of it was through donations, partnerships, and sponsorships from private companies and organizations. We thank everyone who helped us organize this, from our staff to other volunteers, the Saskatoon Fire Department and the Saskatoon Police Service.”
He added that many people looked forward to the annual holiday dinner and were glad that the event has returned after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic preventing large gatherings and some facilities had to shut down their operations.
“This program is well-loved by everyone who joins in the activities here. They look forward to big events like this. Everyone — the sponsors, volunteers, families, the youth and other community members — enjoy coming here and being together,” said Lafond.
“Everyone enjoys working together to provide a good meal, entertainment, and overall an event they can again look forward to attending the following year. We at White Buffalo Youth Lodge enjoy hosting this.”
Lafond said they began planning the holiday dinner after the back-to-school carnival held in the last week of August, where they started reaching out to their partners and sponsors, then selected the date.
STC Chief Mark Arcand said they would continue organizing the event with the WBYL, their partners, and sponsors since helping other people and their relatives are the right things to do. A relative is a term they use for anyone who avails of their services.
“The supper served 2,000 people and, in the process, made the holiday season a little brighter for those in need. We are all working together to do our best to ensure our relatives have a good quality of life. We are very grateful for all those that sponsored the night, and we acknowledge the volunteers because this would not be possible without them,” said Arcand.