Free dinner for those in need
WELLINGTON – One Wellington restaurant owner is making the holiday season special for lonely people.
© Submitted photo
Noel Gallant is just one of the many volunteers at Tracy’s Place in Wellington that helped serve Christmas dinner to the needy and those alone at Christmas.
Tracy Shields, owner of Tracy’s Place in Wellington, staged her second annual free Christmas dinner at her restaurant on Christmas day and intends to keep the tradition going.
“The way it started out was when I moved here years ago, on Christmas Eve there were a few people that I knew who didn’t have anybody,” she said. “So, I would take some of our Christmas dinner and deliver it to their house. And then the numbers kept growing.
Then I thought, I’ve got the restaurant why can’t I just do it there then I can open it up to everybody? We had people from Summerside. We had people from Miscouche that came up. It’s a fun day.”
Shields said the majority of the Christmas visitors are seniors who are alone.
“Mostly, older people,” she said. “It’s just that there are so many people that are in need and sometimes we just get wrapped up in shopping and gifts, we don’t really notice. They are so surprised because there is a gift here for each and every one of them. When they leave they get a little dish of homemade sweets and a gift.”
Shields said she would run the dinner for anyone who needed it.
“One lady came yesterday, no one knew her. She lives in Summerside,” she said. “Her family is all in Ontario. And she had read about this in the church bulletin. She said ‘I’ve spent the last few years alone because I don’t know anyone here.’ One man thanked me it was the first time in five years that he had Christmas dinner. If only these two showed up it would be worthwhile.”
Shields said it is truly a community effort.
“People from the community are great,” she said. “They donate gifts to be given out to each person that comes for Christmas dinner. So, everybody leaves with something. We have little gifts under the tree, a full turkey dinner, the whole bit. Wilfred and Eva Gallant from Miscouche supplied the turkeys. We usually cook two 35- pound turkeys. My staff is great. They all jump in. We get everything ready and we get volunteers that come on Christmas Day and help. My kids help. They enjoy it and I enjoy it and I love seeing the people come here and eat.”
Shields said for the most part no one has abused the dinner.
“Everybody that comes here are people that are alone or people that don’t have family here,” she said. “We had some people from Ontario that just moved here. They have no family here. It’s open to anyone who wants to come.”
Shields said 38 people showed up this year for the dinner and they have the option of eating at the restaurant or taking their food to go.
“There are some that can’t make it in so I deliver their meals on my way home,” she said.
“It’s for anybody that needs it.”
Along with the dinner, Shields raises money for a local charity. This year, $228 was donated on Christmas Day.
“We accepted donations for a local charity,” she said. “Last year I took the money and I bought snowsuits and boots and hats and mitts and dropped them off at the schools and let them distribute them to the kids who needed them.”
“This year we decided we’d donate the money to the Nine Children of Christmas, which is Rachel Parise’s group. They help children at the schools every year,” she said. “Her fitness class, Keeping Fit, does a fundraiser every year and then they all get together and they go shopping for children that are in need. So, we decided to donate to them this year so that will give them a start on their fundraising for next year.”
Some people will drop by the restaurant and donate money for the Christmas dinner but Shields puts it in the donation jar.