Salvation Army dinner serves more than 800 people in Windsor

After being unable to serve the past two holiday seasons, the Salvation Army Windsor Center of Hope welcomed more than 800 people for a free turkey dinner Wednesday night.

Danny Pinksen, executive director of the local branch of the charitable organization, saidid 830 places were set but no one would be turned away, even if that number was surpassed.

It’s the first time Pinksen has overseen the event, having stepped into the executive director role around the onset of the pandemic.

He called it a meaningful experience.

“I think the Salvation Army, in many ways, is synonymous with Christmas,” Pinksen said, “People in this region have made this dinner a part of their Christmas tradition.”

One of those people is Christie Figuary-Mcaree, who said she’s been coming to the community dinner for 27 years.

“Everybody always smiles,” she said. “You’ve got your family Christmas that you have at home with your close ones, like your siblings and everything else, but you’ve got your family that you’ve chosen, which is where you come together here.”

Laur Pray says he’s been volunteering at the Salvation Army Community Christmas Dinner for about 15 years. Dec 14, 2022. (Travis Fortnum/CTV News London)

The night has also become a tradition for those who volunteer — whether they’re setting things up, serving plates or helping in the kitchen.

Pinksen said 150 volunteers make up the on-site team on the night of the dinner.

People like Laur Pray, who’s been lending a hand for about 15 years.

“You feel good because you’ve done something for the community,” he said, “for the people in the community.”

The menu included winter harvest soup, turkey, stuffing, carrots, scalloped potatoes and fruit pie for desert — all prepared by St. Clair College culinary students.

“It’s a crash course if you want to call it that,” said Carmine Incitti, executive chef at the St. Clair College Center for the Arts. “They’ve been with us for a few months already so they’re not new to this. They’re really enjoying it.”

Retired CTV News Windsor anchor Jim Crichton said he was delighted to emcee the evening, after missing many dinners while on the anchor desk. Dec 14, 2022. (Travis Fortnum/CTV News London)As the guests dined, the Salvation Army band played classic Christmas tunes with retired CTV News Windsor anchor Jim Crichton serving as emcee.

“This is the first dinner I was able to attend because I was always anchoring,” he said. “I was greeted by many people who called my name. These people are the salt of Windsor. I was grateful to recognize many faces. They’re all welcome tonight for dinner, as is anyone who cares to come.”

Though this year’s dinner is in the books, the Salvation Army isn’t done for the holidays.

Volunteers will still be out with those classic red kettles, collecting donations right up until the big day.

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