Over three hundred people attended L.I.N.C.’s 20th annual clean and sober Christmas dinner held on Thursday, December 15th in Mission, British Columbia. L.I.N.C. is a non-profit registered charity founded by Glen Flett, a lifer on full parole. The charity works with all people impacted by the criminal justice system. Glen's philosophy is that you are less likely to rob and steal from a community that you are invested in. He has encouraged L.I.N.C. members to volunteer as part of their reintegration back into the community. It’s not unusual to see L.I.N.C. members volunteering at the Soapbox Derby, the Mission Folk Festival, the Soapbox Community Garden, Emma's Acres, and the L.I.N.C. Christmas dinner. The participants know that giving back to our communities is always a step in the right direction.
This year's Christmas dinner saw current and retired Correctional Service of Canada staff volunteering alongside offenders on community service escorts and parolees on conditional release, as well as members of the local community. Turkeys, hams, and other items that were needed for this yearly event were generously donated by local businesses and people who share Glen’s commitment to doing something positive for the community. A group of dedicated volunteers, who have affectionately become known as the “turkey roasters”, cooked 11 of the 20 turkeys needed for the dinner – in their homes no less! The local Anglican Church donated the space for everyone to gather and enjoy the dinner together.
You might wonder how does someone go about preparing vegetables and other dishes for more than 300 people at an event like this? Martin's Downtown Restaurant generously stepped in and helped us with what we needed to cook the vegetables, stuffing and turkeys on the day of the dinner. With so much good food, and the Christmas spirit of giving to others and to our communities, it was no surprise when Santa decided to make a personal visit. He had gifts for the many children who had come to participate in the dinner and they were more than happy when they were able to have their picture taken with him.
The L.I.N.C. Christmas dinner was a huge success. It is a best practice example of how community engagement plays a significant role in public safety. As one community member noted on social media,
"You folks are unsung heroes in this town! How you can mobilize so many contributors and hands on deck for this scrumptious dinner, year after year, is AMAZING, fostering a sense of community that crosses all demographic and cultural divides! Developing a sense of community, where EVERYONE belongs, is the most healing thing. I've often pondered how many crimes DIDN'T happen, because someone in trouble had people to connect to."