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The 5th Annual Community Lunchbox Celebration Night was held on Saturday, March 4 at Central School. Founder Tara Baker was beaming because even though a winter storm roared outside dumping snow across the region, the room in front of her was packed. The weather didn’t keep anyone away!
The evening featured a huge selection of auction items to bid on, a delicious, full-course meal, and the Dueling Pianos to rock the night away. Though the event is, of course, extremely fun, it also serves a big purpose as it is the biggest fundraising event of the year for the Community Lunchbox and goes a long way to helping them help others.
“It’s an opportunity for us to celebrate and showcase our volunteers’ hard work and community champions throughout the year that support us,” said Tara, adding that this is the biggest year for the event. “Our auction table was increased by 33 per cent. It’s huge. And, for ticket sales, we were sold out a month ago.”
The Lunchbox crew has grown in numbers with new people joining her mission regularly. “I really want to take the opportunity to thank the volunteers who made tonight possible: the Girl Guides, Victim Services, the Roller Derby girls, the Whitecourt Fire Department, and community members.”
The staff from Eagle River Casino put together a delicious meal with several meat options, salads, and gourmet desserts. “It was the quickest service and best meal. Absolutely, by far, the best year,” said Tara.
“One really awesome stat is that last year we had 125 volunteers and 74 of them are here tonight and receiving awards,” said Tara. “We are also giving away 10 Community Champion Awards to individuals who we feel have gone above and beyond and we would like to recognize them.” Tara also commented on the fact that even though all the volunteers might not know each other, they all worked together seamlessly.
Thanks to a Family Community Support Services (FCSS) grant, the Community Lunchbox was able to purchase water bottles and lanyards to give to volunteers as a way of recognizing their hard work. “We really wanted to give the volunteers something so they know they are appreciated and part of a team.”
Leftovers from the meal were donated to local shelters for those less fortunate to enjoy. In doing so, the Community Lunchbox continues the cycle of helping others, far beyond where it started years ago. The reach they have has proven to be a huge benefit to both children and adults.
“I think it’s pretty cool that 25 per cent of our ticket holders are volunteers and that over half of our volunteers are here tonight. Tonight is about them and all their hard work. It’s not one person, it’s not five people, or 10. It’s an entire small army, a community,” smiled Tara.