The sounds and smells of the Christmas season fill Main Street in the Village of Taunton Mills on a Thursday afternoon. Upstairs in the Egerton neighbourhood, the mood is the same as neighbours gather to share food, drink and the delights of the season together.
The team in the kitchen has outdone itself, with a huge variety of homemade hors d’oeuvres and several options for festive cocktails. Other team members and volunteers are the servers, waiting on each resident with a warm smile and cheerful conversations. As she offers a sample of bacon-wrapped stuffing to a table of residents, assistant general manager Jillian Heaver jokes that she’s never had a job as a server in all her life.
“You’re doing just fine,” a kind voice replies.
This gala is a gift the team and volunteers offer to the residents they serve. In past years, a full-scale turkey dinner has been the norm, but construction of the newest retirement neighbourhoods is currently underway, biting into the available space for large events. Three seatings for three sit-down dinners totalling more than 500 people was just not possible, but as hospitality director Lee Stewart says, “necessity is the mother of invention.”
“Why not do a less formal appetizer and cocktail Gala instead,” thought the team?
“I think it’s absolutely wonderful,” says Evelyn Denandi as she sips a cranberry-infused sangria after joining a table of four fellow residents. “It brings everybody together.”
Maureen Moloney and her mother Pat are fully decked out in holiday spirit. Maureen lives but a few minutes away from the village and is a regular volunteer in the library. She says an event such as this shows just how much the team cares for the people they serve.
“We could see all the behind the scenes happenings for the last couple of weeks,” Maureen says. “It’s a lot of work . . . but people are so happy and so into it. It’s packed everywhere.”
She noticed pride on the faces of each of the chefs who were upstairs to greet residents who took time to offer their gratitude for the work that went into creating the steady stream of appetizers on offer.
Down the street in the Town Hall, the smell of Christmas puddings and desserts enticed those who favour the sweetness of the season. Chef Tara Stolar was on hand offering her skills as a chocolatier to the residents – an opportunity she truly enjoys as she can share one of her favourite passions with everyone in the village. It’s a step outside the ordinary for everyone involved, and a lovely way to welcome the holiday season.
And this is but the first of several events. In each Long-term care neighbourhood, a smaller gathering will take place, ensuring that all who call Taunton Mills home are part of the festive spirit. The snow has yet to fall outside, but inside the Village, Christmas is truly in the air.