Free Christmas dinners up in air after non-profit loses $15,000 in funding

A non-profit group that offers Christmas Day dinners is in need of $15,000 in funding after a sponsor declined to participate this year.

Thrive Outreach planned to host 3 Christmas Day dinners around the city, hosting 4,300 people

A plan to host three free Christmas dinners around the city is in need of sponsors, said Elaine Dyrberg, founder of Thrive Outreach Foundation. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

A non-profit's plan to host three Christmas Day dinners is in jeopardy after a sponsor declined to participate this year, leaving the group more than $15,000 short.

Thrive Outreach Foundation has been hosting free Christmas dinners for the past eight years, including two last year that served close to 4,300 meals and gave away 300 gifts to children.

This year Thrive's founder, Elaine Dyrberg, hoped to move the dinners beyond the downtown core.

She had been planning to host three dinners, one each at Boyle Street Community Services, Hazeldean community hall and Fusion Fellowship church.

"So, everybody gets reached — not just the homeless but low-income families, the working poor and seniors," Dyrberg said.

Each venue would be open all day, allowing guests to socialize with community members and not spend the day alone, Dyrberg said.

But those plans are up in the air after a sponsor dropped out, leaving the group in need of more than $15,000.

Volunteers help set up desserts for the Thrive Outreach dinner at the Boyle Street Community Plaza on Dec. 25, 2017. (CBC)

Dyrberg said if she doesn't have the funds in place by Dec. 8, she'll have to make a tough decision.

"I use all funds," she said. "I don't store up. I only ask exactly what I need to make this happen."

I've spent days at Christmas time where there is nothing.- Elaine Dyrberg

Dyrberg buys children gifts that aren't cheap and will last for years.

"A child, when they received the gift, that was the only gift they did get that day," she said.

"I think parents feel that they let down their children." 

Dyrberg said she puts together the event every year because she's been in need herself during the holiday season.

"I've spent days at Christmas time where there is nothing. So I know what it's like that somebody generally looks into your eyes and says, 'You matter. You're important and Edmontonians care for you.'"



About the Author

Travis McEwan


Travis McEwan is a video journalist who has not won any awards. Originally from Churchill, Man., he's spent the last decade working at CBC Edmonton. Email story ideas to travis.mcewan@cbc.ca