Renee Johnny gets the chocolate topping on her ice cream sundae from Ron Neal at the Christmas in July barbecue at Our Place on Tuesday. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Renee Johnny gets the chocolate topping on her ice cream sundae from Ron Neal at the Christmas in July barbecue at Our Place on Tuesday. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Our Place celebrates Christmas in July

Afternoon barbecue serves up turkey burgers and Santa hats under the hot sun

It was Christmas in July as the line outside Our Place stretched down the block and around the corner, at least 100 people deep, all waiting to indulge in a unique summer barbecue.

Keeping with the holiday theme, it was turkey burgers on the menu, along with fruit and potato salads, complete with chocolate drizzled ice cream sundaes for dessert.

“It’s quite an experience to come here and serve these meals,” said Ron Neal, of The Neal Estate Team, a group of local realtors who volunteered their time to make the barbecue happen on Tuesday. “It’s Victoria’s working poor in a lot of cases and doing this fills our day, fills our hearts.”

At times, these are people who just can’t afford to go buy a meal, he continued, pointing to the myth that only street people are the recipients of services like the kind Our Place offers.

Volunteers from Ron Neal’s team dish out all the fixings for the Christmas in July barbecue at Our Place, Tuesday. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Neal, who frequently volunteers serving breakfast and Christmas dinner at Our Place, says he and his team didn’t want to wait until December to come and serve another meal. So donning a Santa hat and a Hawaiian flower print shirt, he fit right in against the backdrop of garland and a fully decorated Christmas tree baking in the afternoon sun.

Renee Johnny, an Our Place volunteer who makes it a priority to give back to the community centre that has helped her manage her own struggles, was all smiles as Neal topped her ice cream sundae with a chocolate drizzle.

“The staff here, they love me and believe in me,” she said, adding events like these keep the family members of Our Place in good spirits.

“When the weather’s colder, people are more in tune with the needs of others,” said Tracy Campbell, community relations co-ordinator at Our Place.. “When you have something to look forward to, it lifts you out of your struggles and your stresses. A turkey burger and some ice cream goes a long way.”

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

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