Love was the essence of an Italian dinner served Sunday evening in St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church Hall.
The dinner epitomized the true spirit of Christmas giving in a community where support has grown such that up to six or seven refugee families may soon be calling Salmon Arm home.
The seed of Sunday’s successful fundraising dinner that raised $5,600 to help support the families, began earlier this year.
Wendy and Randy Piccini had been invited to a wedding in Italy and thought it would be a great way to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. But the couple determined the travel date might be too close to their own daughter’s wedding.
The couple then considered a trip to Disneyland, the site of their early courtship.
“I was doing research online when news broke where that little boy washed up on the shores of Turkey,” says Randy, noting talk had already begun about sponsoring a family in Salmon Arm. “Then we decided, let’s take the money and make it grow.”
When Randy presented his idea to the refugee committee, Brian Ayotte happily reacted by saying he would donate his own wine.
“I was thrilled that by quarter to six, the room was just abuzz; the whole evening was truly a great gift for our anniversary,” said a tired but elated Randy on Monday morning. “There were 166 people.”
He says he had been concerned last week about where the servers were going to come from but needn’t have worried.
Several volunteers showed up to help in the kitchen and dining room, answering a call issued by Angel Agassiz.
“We’re still sitting here flabbergasted ourselves; we said ‘come for an enchanting evening,’ and it was that and more,” said Randy, noting most of the recipes were from his own family. “We couldn’t have spent our money and received the gifts that we did anywhere else. We’re still basking in the love and warmth of last night.”
Ayotte was also feeling the love.
“It wasn’t just the number of people, it was the diversity,” he said of his joy to see churches working together.
And, he adds, it looks like another church is planning to sponsor a family.
“One family is about to arrive thanks to a non-affiliated secular group, and St. Joe’s and First United Church are in process,” he said.
The large umbrella group has made it clear resources, be they monetary or items of clothing, furniture or even volunteers, will be shared among all the sponsoring organizations.
An ESL program is starting at the college and volunteers are needed there, as well as with helping people integrate into the community.
Cindy Sholinder is making a list of available furniture for all groups and will let donors know when the items are needed. Call or text her at 250-803-1669 and leave a message, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Call Annette Borkent at 250-833-0931 if you have clothing to donate.
St. Joseph’s and First United Church are equipped to provide receipts for cash donations.
For other inquiries, contact Joyce Henderson at 250-832-4127, Pat Hutchins at 250-832-7242 or Brian Ayotte at 250-804-3431.