Juliet Schoonderwoert first read about the Great Christmas Match-Up initiative, in the Summerland Review. NeighbourLink was looking for host families, willing to welcome people into their homes, who would otherwise be alone on Christmas day.
Schoonderwoert couldn’t help remembering her first Christmas in Canada. It was the only time she had ever been homesick.
She was already planning on having two friends over for Christmas dinner.
“I thought, if I’m cooking turkey for two people, why not for more? There would be plenty for others,” Schoonderwoert said.
Recalling another Christmas in her life also helped Schoonderwoert come to a decision.
“After my husband passed away a friend here in Summerland thought of me and invited me to join her family and that meant a lot to me,” she said.
“I saw this as a way of paying back and sharing and to me, that is what Christmas is all about.”
In the past Schoonderwoert had invited her co-workers, many who were single and had come from overseas, to join her and her husband on Christmas day.
She also enjoyed cooking for a crowd.
Although she ended up having only one additional guest for dinner this Christmas, NeighbourLink had originally put her in contact with two people. It was up to her to phone and invite the guests to her home.
For the guest, Schoonderwoert arranged for her friends to pick her up and bring her along with them.
Upon arriving, the lady gave her a big hug. From this physical response, Schoonderwoert knew that her guest was very grateful.
“She was a very warm hearted person and we all got on very well,” said Schoonderwoert. “We were all seniors. We sat around and had some mulled apple juice and then we ate our meal.
Rather than cooking a whole turkey, Schoonderwoert chose to cook a stuffed turkey breast. She said there was plenty for the four of them and enough for her guests to go home with leftovers.
What made the day special for Schoonderwoert was “sitting around the fire having a good chat, enjoying a few laughs and just getting to know another person,” she said.
NeighbourLink hopes to make the Summerland Christmas Match-Up an annual event.
Schoonderwoert says she will participate again and encourages anyone who may be alone for the holidays next year, not to hesitate to come forward.
There were more folks willing to be host families this year than there were guests.
She also thinks this program is better than those that involve volunteering to go down to a community hall or church to help prepare a dinner for others.
“This is the way it should be,” she said.
If you know a positive story about someone in our community, contact Carla McLeod at email@example.com or contact the Summerland Review newsroom at 250-494-5406.