Giving back to Victorians in need at Christmastime

Business leaders team up to host third annual dinner

Yellow Cab assistant manager Samantha Lazeo

People in Victoria without the means to put on a full Christmas spread can find one Saturday (Dec. 22), thanks to some partnerships in the business community.

The idea of putting on a charity Christmas dinner came to Yellow Cab president Sushil Hira three years ago, around the time friend Gordy Dodd was hosting his annual charitable Thanksgiving dinner.

“Nobody was doing it for Christmas, so I said, ‘Gordy we need to do something for Christmas as well,’” Hira said.

While he isn’t Christian, he wanted to take part in this traditionally Christian holiday. “This is the season where we don’t want anybody to be left without celebration. It’s not only Christian now. It’s everyone who celebrates. It has become a part of our culture.”

For this reason, he pitched the idea of a Christmas dinner to Dodd, and the two men agreed to host the event together.

Now in its third year, the Christmas dinner idea has is expanded.

Dodd is heading to Nanaimo to launch a dinner there, while Hira is taking the lead on the Victoria dinner with the help of friend Sweetpal Singh, managing director of Shell at 100 Esquimalt Rd.

“We will also be giving some blankets and some gifts,” Hira said.

“(And) last year, we felt that some kids showed up and we didn’t have anything to give the kids.”

In response, organizers have secured teddy bears and other gifts to pass on to children.

Close to 700 people showed up for the dinner last year and at least that many are expected this time around. Staff from a local Indian restaurant are cooking the entire traditional Christmas dinner of turkey with all the trimmings. The dinner is expected to cost between $10,000 and $15,000, Hira said.

“We have 200 shareholders in our company,” he said.

“Every cab is owned by single owners and they all live locally and they want to contribute to where they live.”

Anybody can show up to the dinner to either volunteer or to dine. It takes place Saturday at First Metropolitan United Church, 923 Balmoral Rd., starting at 5 p.m. Santa arrives to deliver toys at 5:15 p.m.

“Everybody who is needy, please come. Nobody will be turned away,” Hira said.

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