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Calm Air continues Kivalliq Christmas tradition

It's obvious management and staff members of Calm Air take great pride in the delivery of the airline's annual Christmas dinner to Kivalliq communities.

Calm Air's Winnipeg customer service agent, Allan Rodriguez, left, and the airline's marketing manager, Stephanie Thiessen, get ready to start dishing out the goodies during Calm Air's annual Christmas dinner in Naujaat on Dec. 1. photo courtesy of Julia MacPherson

The airline has been partnering with school staff members to bring the dinner to Kivalliq communities for almost 20 years now.

Its marketing manager, Stephanie Thiessen, said she has records that date the annual dinner back to at least 2003.

She said the dinner is an event that the airline is very passionate about.

"We are going to continue holding the event every year, with at least two dinners being served," said Thiessen.

"How we view it: our community is what matters to us, and we, especially around Christmas time, understand that there are challenges in the communities and being able to go to a community and serve a big, hearty meal to the students, elders and school staff is one way we can help.

"And, to be able to offer that help around Christmas time is especially important to us."

Calm Air sponsored two Christmas dinners in Naujaat this holiday season, and a third in Whale Cove.

In total, the airline and volunteers prepared dinners for more than 900 students and community members in the two communities combined, cooking 50 18-pound turkeys, and preparing 100 pounds of stuffing and more than 80 pounds of mashed potatoes, while handing out more than 415 pounds of oranges.

Calm Air held one dinner for more than 300 students, elders and school staff members at Tusarvik Elementary School, and another for more than 250 people at Tuugaalik High School in Naujaat, as well as a third dinner for more than 400 people in Whale Cove.

Tuugaalik vice-principal Julia MacPherson said the dinners in Naujaat were a huge success.

She said many folks chipped in to make the event an extra-special one for the community.

"The students, from Grade 7 to Grade 12, enjoyed the meal at the high school so much that many of them went back for seconds and even thirds," said MacPherson.

"Following the dinner, we packed 22 containers of leftovers, and myself and three students delivered them to single-parent families and families that could use a little extra food in the community."

For a number of years, Calm Air also brought a large number of presents along to each community hosting the dinner, but this year a different approach was employed.

Thiessen said first and foremost, the airline focused on the food, and then asked the administration if there were any resources schools had a pressing need for.

She said Inuglak School in Whale Cove was quick to take the airline up on its offer.

"The Whale Cove school has a home economics program it's going to be starting up in the high school grades, and it had a real need for items for that program," said Thiessen.

"So we over-ordered things like cleaning utensils, spoons and aprons, and everything that we had leftover from the dinner we just left in the community.

"It was greatly appreciated by the school staff and, in both communities, the principals, teachers and students were so helpful during our time there that it truly was a real team effort.

"The communities and the company all came together to make the dinners a success."

More than 20 Calm Air employees travelled to Naujaat and Whale Cove to help with the dinners.

In fact, said Thiessen, so many employees put their names forward to volunteer for the dinners that she had to turn away a number of them due to the lack of accommodations in the two communities.

She said because they can only bring so many volunteers along for each trip, that makes the efforts of the local volunteers that much more important.

"I have a special shout out of thank you to the RCMP officers who showed up during our first trip to Naujaat and helped us serve the entire meal.

"(Being) at these dinners is so exciting because you're meeting people you haven't met before, everyone comes together as kind of a family, and the dinner is met with enthusiasm at all ends.

"You get to know each other really well while spending a whole evening cooking together and a good portion of the next day serving together.

"It really is a slice of that old Christmas magic you get to see."