How 600 kg of pudding created a community for a group of seniors in Kitchener, Ontario.

Jennifer Uttley remembers Christmas 2020 as a lonely Christmas.

Not only was dinner with her family done over Zoom, due to COVID-19, but the church pudding fundraiser she’s been attending for decades has also been cancelled.

Nicknamed the Pudding Factory, St. John the Evangelist Church in Kitchener, Ontario is known for making over a thousand pounds of Christmas puddings every year.

He raises money for the church, its outreach activities, the food bank and the local women’s crisis center and the factory gives volunteers the chance to get to know each other beyond the pews.

The Pudding Factory fundraiser at St. John the Evangelist Church in Kitchener provides community and social opportunities for volunteers. (James Chaarani / Radio Canada)

« Here you work with the people and you talk and you start to learn about the people in the parish, right? » Uttley told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

« One of the best things about Pudding Factory is being with other people and getting to know them, and we have people who aren’t parish members who volunteer and come in enjoy too. »

When the Pudding Factory was closed in 2020, Uttley feared it would never reopen. She was concerned about the impact on their charity work, but also about the social impact.

« We were locked in, » Uttley said. The volunteers have held virtual meet-ups, she said, « but that’s not the same as working side-by-side to get the job done. »

Jennifer Uttley has been a volunteer at the Pudding Factory since the 1980s. (James Chaarani / Radio Canada)

Charles Stuart, co-coordinator of the Pudding Factory, described its closure as « absolutely disheartening ».

« This is a major event in the life of the church as it has been a tradition in St. John’s for 72 years now, » he said. « So it’s very long and people, I think, are looking forward to the hive of activity that the church becomes during this time. »

Pan washing days

Uttley has attended St. John the Evangelist Church since 1969 — and also got married there — but didn’t start volunteering at the Pudding Factory until the 1980s.

« Oh, that was hard because you were up to your elbows in grease washing the pots, » she laughs, thinking back to her freshman year at the Pudding Factory.

« We didn’t have dishwashers then, so everything was washed by hand. And it was long evenings, so yeah, I was tired. So it was nice to graduate for different jobs, » she said, laughing again.

Despite the hard work, she continued to volunteer with fundraising year after year. She was eventually promoted to fundraising coordinator and held that position until recently.

The church’s pudding factory made about 1,300 pounds of Christmas pudding this year. (James Chaarani / Radio Canada)

Although lockdowns are likely behind them, Uttley says the pudding factory is still finding its footing as it ramps up production again.

« They’re sort of back to normal, except we’re still short on volunteers and at the last minute some of our staff contracted COVID and couldn’t come, » she said. « And they were team leaders. »

« So it’s not quite normal yet, but it’s much better. »

Some packaged Christmas puddings from the Pudding Factory at St. John the Evangelist Church in Kitchener (James Chaarani / Radio Canada)


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