Mealtime Express hosts Secret Santa Dinner

By Joel Charron

Those who attended the fourth annual Secret Santa Dinner left Mealtime Express with a full belly and the feeling of helping a family in need during this holiday season.

The Secret Santa Dinner hosted by Janet and Norm Mickle, owners of Mealtime Express started the dinner four years ago aimed at helping families and children enjoy their Christmas.

Last year the proceeds from the dinner were used to help 31 families and 77 children, who received six items that were on their Christmas List. This year the dinner rasied $15,190.

“It’s been phenomenal,’ said Norm Mickle. “Tickets sold out in a week and a half.”


Janet and Norm Mickle along with volunteers Jessica Loiselle, Aimee Lucier and J.P. Waters serve the first of four seatings for the Sixth Annual Secret Santa Dinner. The Dinner raised $15,190

Mickle said the idea for the Secret Santa Dinner started years ago at the Mealtime Express Christmas Party. The staff would pool their money together to buy the couple something for Christmas.

“Instead of doing that we said why don’t we take the money and we will donate it to a family who needs it more,” said Mickle.

After hooking up with Ilene and Ed Clifford from Essex (who runs a similar fundraiser) the Secret Santa Dinner was born.

“We just thought why not do something right here in Amherstburg for our kids,” explained Mickle.

One hundred per cent of the proceeds goes to helping needy families and presents for children.

“We don’t take any money, everything goes toward the Secret Santa program,” said Mickle.

Each family will receive a food voucher from Sobey’s for Christmas dinner or what ever other groceries they may need.

As for the children, Mickle said they receive “wish lists” from the children as to what they want for Christmas.

“We get a list of what actually the kids want for Christmas and the Secret Santa program goes out and buys it for them,” he said.

The Food and Fellowship Mission helps the program find families and children that need help.

Mickle said all the food from the bread, coffee and even the door prizes were donated by their sponsors. Even the staff of Mealtime Express comes in and works for free during the dinner.

For $15, guests enjoyed a three-piece broaster chicken dinner with fries, coleslaw, homemade bread, beverage, and dessert.

Mickle said when it came time to gather door prizes he didn’t have to do a lot of legwork.

“Between Facebook and the local media, once the word spread that we set the date of the dinner, people started donated items hand  over fist,” said Mickle.

Mickle said he is always overwhelmed at the support of the community.

“The people in this town care about people in this town,” she said. “I think they all believe in the magic of Christmas. It’s an amazing thing.”

Mickle recalled an encounter with a man at the Mission. After Mickle told the man the dinner was sold out, he told Mickle he still wanted to help. The man pulled out his wallet and handed him $200.

“It’s a win situation for all the volunteers, it’s a win situations for all the organizations that know the families in need and it’s a win situation for all the kids because they’re going to get a real nice Christmas, I promise you that,” said Mickle.

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