COURTENAY, B.C. – No one will be turned away from a free Christmas luncheon tomorrow afternoon in downtown Courtenay.

The Earl Naswell Community Christmas Dinner was started by Earl Naswell in 1983 and it has since become a Comox Valley tradition.

Now in its 36th year, the event is still going strong in 2018, with an army of volunteers happy to help out in any way possible, and more people attending each year.

The dinner is being held on Christmas Day at the Filberg Center.

Doors open at 11 a.m. for coffee, goodies and caroling.

Now 90, Naswell still attends the luncheons. This year, he has a table reserved for him near the front of the room.

Local businesses are always very generous with donations when approached by the dinner’s organizers and have helped buy turkeys, ham, and all the fixings.

A hot turkey and ham dinner is being served at noon and runs until 1:30 p.m.

Volunteer co-coordinator Pam Morrison said she and the organizing team are “absolutely overwhelmed” by the number of volunteers who are willing to step up to help each year.

“I have probably 40 volunteers who are on a list, and there’s probably another 10 or 20 who have been doing it year after year who just show up and don’t even phone me,” Morrison said. “And I have about… 20 (volunteers) on next year’s list.”

Morrison said there’s something about the Christmas season that makes people want to give to others.

“Everybody wants to do something at Christmas,” she said. “A lot of people have people coming from out of town or families who want to experience a different sort of a Christmas. We get overwhelmed by the amount of volunteers and I unfortunately have to turn a lot of people away.”

What started out as an event to feed the homeless has transformed into a community luncheon where everyone is welcome.

“There are young people who are by themselves or elderly… anybody who really wants to come is welcome,” she said.

Shuttles are being provided in various locations in the Comox Valley and Cumberland, to transport people to the dinner.

Pickup times are: 10:20 at the Cumberland Library, 10:40 a.m. at the Comox Legion, 10:30 a.m. at Maple Pool Campground, and 10:45 a.m. at the Washington Inn.