KINGSTON, ONT. -- A local charity is serving up hundreds of free meals for Christmas Eve in Kingston, meeting an increased need in the city during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Martha’s Table, at 629 Princess St., has been offering low cost and free meals for 23 years.

This Christmas Eve, COVID-19 has created more of a need. 

Executive Director Ronda Candy says they’ve had to plan for double the number of turkey dinners they served last year.

“We cooked for 500 people today,” she says.

Candy says there are new faces every day. 

“During the pandemic, the numbers continued to rise, and we expect for it to have a quick spike in the near future and continue to rise,” she says. “There’s people coming to Martha’s Table that never would have visited before, never needed to, and they find themselves standing in line very unexpectedly. But I’m happy that they found their way to us because we can let them know it’s a safe and comfortable space, free of judgement.”

The group gives out a full Christmas dinner with turkey, potatoes and stuffing.

“It’s what you might’ve had at home; it’s what your grandmother would have made,” she says.

Those who come by will also get a little gift: boxes and stockings filled with necessities like masks, toothpaste and chocolate treats.

Everything has been donated. Candy says, as the need increases, the Kingston community has reached out however they can.

“This year in particular, when everyone’s facing a struggle of their own, it’s really inspiring,” she says. “Truly inspiring to see them still give to others.”

Twelve volunteers are working in shifts throughout the day to serve hundreds of meals. Still, they say it’s worth it.

“It’s not a happy season for them,” says volunteer Shirley Brown. “Anything we can do to make it brighter makes me feel good.”

“It’s a great team, and everyone is pretty happy to be here,” agrees Don Stubbs.

For the first time, the charity will also serve a Christmas Day dinner on December 25.

Candy says, it’s about lifting customers spirits during a difficult year.

“If we can just help someone get back on their feet and stay healthy, we’re happy,” she explains.