Salmon farmers help bring holiday cheer

Marine Harvest and Grieg Seafood were instrumental in supporting a Christmas dinner for seniors on Vancouver Island.

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Nearly 80 seniors walked through the doors of the Sayward Heritage Hall this year for the communities’ annual Senior’s Christmas Dinner. Known to be a highlight in the Vancouver Island community’s social calendar for decades, the annual dinner offers seniors the chance to reconnect and socialize with others in the community.

Ann Vansnick, a volunteer of 15 years who has recently started helping to organize the event, enjoys being a part of this special Christmas dinner that is made possible by the generous donations of local residents and businesses.

“Marine Harvest Canada and Grieg Seafood have been huge supporters of this community event,” said Vansnick. “We appreciate the help of local businesses that donate to the event each year, but to put on a free seniors dinner, it’s truly the donations from these two companies that make it happen.”

Former-organizer Joyce Despins, a women credited by many in the community as the primary reason behind the success of the dinner since the late-1990’s, commends the generosity of those donating their time, food and money to make the event possible each year.

“The last year I did it, two women from the salmon farming companies came and worked all day for free, and it was just wonderful to have their help,” remembered Despins.

One of those volunteers was Marilyn Hutchinson, who said that Grieg Seafood has supported the Sayward Seniors Christmas dinner for the past five years.

“We recognize the contributions these hard-working residents have made to our North Island communities,” said Marilyn. “Now it is their turn to enjoy a hot turkey with all the trimmings, door prizes and the company of long-time friends.”

Jan Bakker has been attending the dinner with his wife for since he turned 65 eight years ago. This Christmas tradition is something that is important to him, and he indicated that just about every senior in the community looks forward to attending the event each year. He is grateful for the support of the volunteers and businesses that contribute to making the dinner a success.

“If it wasn’t for their support, the dinner wouldn’t be happening,” said Jan. “For a lot of seniors, getting a door prize like a $25 gift certificate to a grocery store really helps, especially at this time of year.”

Leith Paganoni from Marine Harvest Canada volunteered at this year’s event. New to Vancouver Island, Leith said she found out about the dinner through Ann, who had mentioned that employees from both Grieg Seafood and Marine Harvest have volunteered their time in the past.

“It gave me a chance to learn about Sayward from the seniors and the local volunteers,” said Leith. “The well-run event was a great example of what a small, passionate community can achieve.”

“This dinner is close to my heart,” said Vansnick. She knows how much it means to the community, and is thankful for the generous support from salmon farming companies for their annual contributions to the successful event.