The Public Good
Christmas Dinner at the Pub
Pub owner demonstrates what citizenship is all about
By Ryan Hurley
The power of Canadian winter is something
that, although grumbled about by most
people, sometimes brings us together. Think
back to the ice storm of late December,
2013. Many were left without power, others
stranded on the side of the road. However,
in the rush to find stories of hardship and
despair, the absolutely amazing stories of
people who did whatever they could to help
out their fellow community members are
often pushed to the wayside. This story is
one of those.
Sitting by the fireplace in the bar section of the Black Dog Pub, the owner George Voulgaris, relates to me how he first heard about how many people were left without power following the storm just before Christmas. He is a large man, the kind of guy one would be terrified of on the ice, but you can tell by his bashfulness at answering questions regarding his good work that he has a huge heart.
During the storm, The Black Dog Pub, however was still up and running. George got to thinking that many would be left without power for Christmas Day, and decided to do something about it. He first spoke with his Kitchen Manager Kamal, and cook Suman who were more than happy to volunteer to come in on Christmas day. He then called his general manager Carol Law and servers Melissa and Ms. O’Neil. Several teenage kids of staff also came along with some of their friends to help out. George was careful to mention that staff members are the ones who truly made this dinner happen. Although he was quick to shift credit towards others, you can tell George was the driving force behind this dinner; the one who managed to motivate everyone involved.
His challenge was finding a veritable flock of turkeys on Christmas Eve. He called several suppliers. He was insistent that the turkeys be fresh, which compounded his problem. Eventually he managed to find seven birds.
The next problem was getting the word out. In the power-deprived neighbourhood, online messaging would have been ineffective. He posted signs outside the pub, called people to tell them to get the word out to their neighbours, and even placed a call to the local police department to see if they had found anyone in need.
He and his staff spent the entirety of Christmas day preparing the meal. The roasting of one turkey is a daunting task; think about your own Christmas dinner multiplied by seven. People tried to phone in reservations, and offered to pay for their meals, but Voulgatis would hear none of it. “I was just doing a good thing, because that’s what you do when other people need help.” They ended up having a crowd of upwards of 120 people—everyone from babies to people in their nineties.
The work of all of the folks at the Black Dog Pub and the success of their Christmas dinner shows that although events such as extreme weather are often only seen for the damage they cause to both lives and pocketbooks, they often have a way of bringing out the best in people. The Black Dog has a motto emblazoned on its wall saying, “You are a stranger here but once!” Voulgatis and all the staff at the Black Dog, certainly seem to live it.