By ALAN SHACKLETON
A long-standing East York tradition will continue with the annual East York Seniors Christmas Dinner on Wednesday, Dec. 25.
The event is co-hosted by Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford and Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher in partnership with the East York Foundation.
It will take place on Christmas Day at the East York Community Centre, 1081 ½ Pape Ave., starting at noon.
Local residents are reminded that those attending must have a ticket for the lunch. All of the tickets have been distributed to local seniors in advance of the event, and there is no capacity to handle walk-ins.
“The East York Christmas lunch for seniors has been one that has been going for decades,” Councillor Fletcher said recently. “It’s a long-standing tradition in the East York community.”
The lunch first began taking place in the 1980s, and was started by former Borough of East York Mayor Dave Johnson. It then continued as the Mayor’s Lunch until megacity amalgamation took effect in 1998.
After that it was hosted by the two councillors representing the parts of the wards of Beaches-East York and Toronto-Danforth located north of Danforth Avenue.
Due to the downsizing of Toronto Council by Premier Doug Ford’s provincial government in 2018, the size of city wards doubled and the hosting duties went to Fletcher (who had previously represented the Toronto-Danforth ward south of the Danforth) and first-time Beaches-East York Councillor Bradford.
“So things have changed radically over the years,” said Fletcher in talking about the Christmas lunch. “We’re keeping this tradition going in what are much larger wards now.”
And it is an added responsibility that Fletcher has embraced, as it means so much to the East York seniors who attend.
“East York wants to continue with this and sustain it,” she said. “We’re happy to help keep it going as it means so much to those who attend. It is very important to the seniors. It gives people a place to go on Christmas Day and they can come out for a wonderful hot lunch.”
Also looking forward to attending his second East York Seniors Christmas Dinner on Dec. 25 is Councillor Bradford.
“It’s a wonderful tradition and just another example of the big hearts in the East York community,” he said.
“Many of the seniors don’t have another place to go for Christmas so having this dinner is really special. It’s a chance to spend some time with neighbours and friends, and get a bit of that Christmas spirit over the holidays.”
Bradford pointed out that this time of year can be challenging for some, particularly those who have lost loved ones or are feeling alone because their friends and families are far away.
“The holidays can be a lonely time for some, especially for seniors when family or friends might not be around,” he said. “It’s also a good reminder to take extra time, even when things are so busy, to stop by a neighbour or call that friend or family member who’d love to hear from you.”
Bradford added that co-hosting and taking part in the East York Seniors Christmas Dinner has now become part of his holiday tradition.
“One of my favourite new traditions is being able to get out in the community and spend time with the seniors who set the tone for the heart and soul we appreciate in our neighbourhoods today,” he said.