Panna Chakraborty (left) made a promise to his wife, Sudipta, before she died that he would carry on their tradition of providing Christmas dinners to those in need. With the help of his friend, Tim McRae (right), that tradition continues. Anyone in Hawkesbury who needs a Christmas dinner can phone or text 514-994-5870 or 514-970-5691 before December 19 and pick it up December 22 at the Crevier Express on Main Street.
Panna Chakraborty (left) made a promise to his wife, Sudipta, before she died that he would carry on their tradition of providing Christmas dinners to those in need. With the help of his friend, Tim McRae (right), that tradition continues. Anyone in Hawkesbury who needs a Christmas dinner can phone or text 514-994-5870 or 514-970-5691 before December 19 and pick it up December 22 at the Crevier Express on Main Street.

A Christmas cheer promise for those who need it

Gregg Chamberlain
EAP
With a little help from his friends, Panna Chakraborthy is keeping a promise to his wife to bring a little Christmas cheer to those who need it.

“It was because of her that I became involved,” said Chakraborthy, recalling the past happy years with his wife, Sudipta, and their annual tradition of providing Christmas dinners to those who needed a little comfort and cheer during the Yuletide.

They started their Christmas dinner tradition when they lived in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce district of Montréal and owned a restaurant, la Maison India. Every year the couple would dedicate a day just before Christmas when they provided meals at their restaurant, free of charge, to anyone who walked in.

“And every year we used to feed the NDG fire department and the police department,” said Chakraborthy. “We also provided meals to the food bank.”

He estimated that some years they fed as many as 2000 people. When the couple moved to Hawkesbury about five years ago and bought the Crevier Express gas bar at the intersection of Tupper Street and Main Street, they continued their annual Christmas dinner tradition.

In June this year, Sudipta passed away. But before she died, she made her Panna promise “to take care of the people” and continue their Christmas dinner tradition. With a little help from his friends, Tim and Chantal McRae, and their catering business, Panna is making good on his promise to his beloved Sudipta.

The McRaes own and operate A Catering Affair, and business has been a bit quiet during the pandemic. They are more than happy to offer Panna their volunteer help with keeping the promise he made to his Sudipta. “It’s a good way to take your mind off your own problems,” said Tim McRae.

It won’t be the first time this year that the McRae’s have dedicated their catering skills to helping others. During the spring, with the help of a small donation from a friend, they put together 500 meals for distribution to seniors in need.

“I cooked most of the day, my wife took all the phone calls,” said McRae, “and then me and the kids did deliveries in the evening, dropping food at the door, ringing the bell, and then leaving. We were all trying to help.”

Now, working with Panna, the plan is to provide full-turkey dinners, with all the trimmings, to anyone who wants one, no questions asked. All anyone has to do is phone 514-994-5870 or 514-970-5691, or text either number, provide a name for the pickup and how many dinners are needed.

All orders need to be in by December 19 for pickup on December 22. Between those two dates, the McRaes will be busy cooking and packaging all of the dinners then taking them over to the Crevier Express for pickup by the people who ordered them.

Panna will be there from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. to make sure that every order is collected. “We came here (to Canada) empty-handed,” said Panna, regarding the reason he and his Sudipta began their Christmas tradition. “What we got back from this country, it was a way for us to give back too.”