By Charles Perry Times & Transcript Staff
The Moncton Lions Club is modest about the Christmas dinner they provide each year for the visually impaired in the area.
“We really enjoy doing it,” says Lion club member Gloria Paschal. “It is as much fun for us as it is for them,” she said Saturday night, just prior to the annual dinner for visually impaired residents of southeastern New Brunswick and their spouses or family members.
The Moncton Lions and Lionettes totally do everything for this dinner,” said Arlene Hachey of Moncton, provincial president for the Canadian Institute for the Blind. “They buy the food, cook the meal and serve the meal.
“They do it year after year and are happy to do it,” she said.
More than 225 people were on hand for the dinner this year, not just from Metro Moncton but from various parts of Westmorland, Albert and Kent counties.
Paschal said they need about 10 to 12 turkeys and begin working on the meals a few days ahead of time.
“You can’t get that many turkeys out of the freezer, thawed, cooked and ready to serve, overnight,” she said.
Along with the dinner and dessert, she said one of the Lions Club members dresses as Santa Claus and presents a gift to each of their guests.
They wrap up the evening with some carolling, she said.
Clarence Curwin, who has been a member of the Moncton, Lions Club for 34 years, said the relationship between the Lions clubs and the visually-impaired goes back several decades to when famed writer and lecturer Helen Keller, who was both blind and deaf, spoke at a Lions international convention.
Her speech so inspirational, he said, that, since then, at least one Lions Club in most communities became involved with the helping the visually impaired in one way or another.
Curwin said the Christmas dinners for the visually impaired have been provided by the Moncton Lions Club, at least, since he joined it.
Julian Legere of Shediac, who has been visually impaired since birth due to cataracts, recalled going to the dinners back in 1954 and ’55. He said you always meet people you know and get to share common experiences with other blind people.
“This is great, this is amazing,” said his daughter Patsy Legere, who accompanied her father to the dinner, along with her boyfriend Edgar LeBlanc. She had lived in Ontario for 40 years before returning to New Brunswick last year, she said, adding his other daughter Diane took her father to the dinner before that.
Windsor MacDonald of Moncton was accompanied by his daughter Ann Cormier. He said his vision loss began a couple of decades ago, noting he has not been able to drive a car since 1993.
MacDonald said he enjoys the Christmas dinners because he always meets other people there, most often, unexpectedly. A woman he plays cards with, regularly, was there one year with her visually impaired daughter, he said, adding he did not even know before then that she had a daughter who had vision problems.
Cormier said she may soon be able to go to the dinners based on her own condition, noting she has been diagnosed with macular degeneration.
Hachey explained that the macula is a “tiny spot” at the back of your eyes that gives detail to what you are seeing. With macula degeneration, she said you have to learn to make greater use of your peripheral vision to see.
Ludivine Arseneau of Moncton, accompanied by her husband Frank, said she started going to the CNIB the last couple of years as her vision deteriorated.
This marks the first year she was invited to the Christmas dinner and she said she has heard nothing but good things about the event.