Everything in life has a purpose, says founder of meal and fellowship
Wanting to do something for others after being blessed herself in life is the driving force behind a Moose Jaw Christmas tradition.
Each year on Christmas Day, Bobby's Place Olde Time Tavern offers a free Christmas meal, a place to be with others in a non-judgemental manner and be loved.
“I do this because it needs to be done. We have done it for 15 years and it has grown and grown,” said Monica Haakenson co-owner of Bobby's Place Olde Time Tavern about the pub's annual free Christmas dinner.
“I cannot imagine waking up on Christmas Day and not having a another soul to put my arms around and saying Merry Christmas to,” Haakenson said.
This year about 150-175 people took in the free meal in a non-judgemental atmosphere where they could not only eat a meal but have fellowship with others.
The highlight of this year's meal was a group of former staff who are musicians who stopped in unannounced to sing to those gathered.
“They came here to sing a few times and it went over really well…it was a gift for me from them. I loved it.”
Asked if she was religious Haakenson said no but she was spiritual which was one reason for the feast. The other reasons were she herself felt blessed in all she had in life and wanted to share her good fortune with others.
“I am a very, very blessed woman, I have a little place where I make a good living and we want to give back to others.”
Haakenson spoke about the pub being Downtown and how sometimes the people who were down and out just needed a break.
“Half of the people who come (for the Christmas Day meal) are down and out and lonely and that’s sad. Hopefully this makes their day better.”
About recognition for what she and her husband do she said it wasn’t necessary.
“If I can even touch one of these people that’s all the thanks I need,” she said adding “I would put my arms around somebody like that. They are my blessings.”
Haakenson said others need to be thanked for making the day possible especially staff members who volunteer to help out.
“We have a very brilliant staff and others who help me do this. They could be elsewhere but they are here to help.”
She spoke about her life of growing up financially poor but they were rich in other ways.
“We grew up with very little. But we had a lot of love, we had everything in life.”
Creating Bobby's Place, a Scottish pub in the heart of Moose Jaw, was really the dream of her father Bobby who like herself was an immigrant from Scotland. Her father and mother both died too young and Bobby never got to see his dream become a reality.
To create the very unique gathering place the Haakensons took a chance and took out a second mortgage on their house and succeeded.
“There is a reason for everything in life. This pub is here it just belongs and it is right. It is meant to be, so is helping others.”
She spoke about the special times at Bobby’s over the years.
“People have met in this pub and fallen in love in this pub and gone on to be married.”
“When you think about it we should think about everyday of the year as a gift and be celebrating it.”
Haakenson said even if 10 other places would put on the same meal Bobby's would still put on their meal as it’s something that’s needed.
Although the meal was free any donations would go to the Riverside Mission to help with their work to help out people who are down in their luck.
The Haakensons celebrated Christmas with their children and grandchildren and others - about 35 people - on Christmas Eve. Additionally they spent time with their grandchildren on Christmas morning before heading over to prepare and serve the meal.