By Chris Lewis | Vol. 32 No. 41 (Dec. 23, 2019)
The All Saints Parish Hall in Conception Bay South has been feeding the community for four years now.
It is not uncommon to see dozens of cars parked outside the hall in Foxtrap on a weekly basis.
That is because, for the last four years, the hall has been hosting a dinner for the community every Wednesday – save for a short period of time toward the end of the year.
Ined Haines and Aura Farrell have been spearheading the events since the beginning. The two sisters said that they are quite pleased to see how the dinners have unfolded.
The dinners are what Haines described as a freewill offering, meaning that they are open to any and all free of charge, but there is still the option of donating.
Those donations, for the last four years, have gone to the CBS/Paradise Food Bank.
This year, the annual Christmas event was split into two different seatings to accommodate the number of people who wanted to attend. In the first sitting, there were 196 participants, with the second one seeing 136 more. The kitchen teemed with 36 volunteers making sure the food was hot and ready for the hundreds who had gathered in the hall.
The event saw approximately $2,200 raised for the food bank.
“It was really wonderful. We get people from all over – Portugal Cove-St. Phillips, Paradise, Avondale, Conception Harbour … from all over really,” Haines said.
Those numbers may seem big, but those who attend the dinners know that it is far from uncommon to see so many people together in the hall for a feast.
Farrell said the dinners, which they call the All Saints Tearoom, are about a lot more than just eating and leaving. She says there are people from all over the Shore who look forward to the dinner every week, and that finding volunteers to lend a hand has never been an issue.
The idea to put this event together dates back to 2015. It was something that had been talked about for quite some time. It was the two sisters who decided it was time they got the ball rolling.
“We were in a meeting and I finally said, ‘I want to do this luncheon’ and all was good to go. We had set the first date for April, but we ended up with a snowstorm and had to push it back to the first week of May,” Haines said, laughing. “The first day we had 23 people. The next week, we had 38. The week after that, 45. It just kept growing from there, and before long we were into the 80s and 90s. Lots of days we’d see 120 to 135 people.”
While the Christmas dinner is still the most popular, those numbers have stayed consistent year-round. Even in the middle of summer, they’ve counted well over 100 participants. It has even become something of a tourist activity, especially in the summer.
“We get quite a few tourists – we’ve had people from all the way over in Australia, New Zealand, and all over the United States,” said Farrell.
“People say to me all the time that they hear other people talking about the luncheon, pretty much anywhere they go … they say it’s the best place to go to eat,” added Haines with a grin and a chuckle.
They have several menus and meals that they rotate through as the weeks go by, but Farrell said the most popular is when they serve bologna, beans and toutons.
Reverend Wayne Parsons says the event serves as an outreach to the community, and has become a staple of the season for many throughout Conception Bay South and surrounding areas.
“It gives them a safe space to come, gather, and share in a nice hot meal. For some, it’s really the highlight of their week, and I say that with respect,” Parsons said. “It’s an outreach of Christian love, and of bringing people together. It’s a place where people come to connect with each other. For a certain percentage, it may be the only hot meal they get that week. People feel very comfortable when they come, and it has become a very well known entity here on the shore over the years.”