In December 2014, with the kids having left the nest, a couple from Neston decided to volunteer at the Salvation Army Christmas lunch in Chester.
Having found this a wonderful, if not sobering, experience it set in train a thought process that something needed to be done about the all the people in the area that could be spending Christmas alone.
By mid-2015 the seed of the idea had developed and work progressed with a number of like-minded people, including work colleagues, to bring some Christmas joy to people who would otherwise be alone on Christmas Day. Using contacts with various voluntary organisations they set about forming the Neston Community Christmas Dinner. They have gone from strength to strength and last year managed to secure the use of the Community Hall at the URC church in Neston and also provided transport for those unable to get to the event on their own. They now have a bank account for donations, a chairperson, a treasurer and a committee of volunteers to help with the organising both beforehand and on the day.
Below, they have written little bit about their experience on the day:
‘We have a wonderful time serving out the Christmas Dinner, everyone goes away with a personalised card and a present. They can also take away a turkey sandwich and a mince pie. We think of everything to make the day a fantastic experience for everyone including our volunteers.
We have now got so many amazing volunteers who give up their time to help us on the day, they come from all walks of life from school teachers, carers, mums, church organists, retail workers, a chef, a local councillor and a fitness instructor.
The first year we held the lunch we used one car to collect people who couldn’t make their own way to the church hall. Quite a feat! Now we are so lucky to be able to hire a minibus and we have a volunteer driver and someone to assist our guests on and off the minibus. Our first lunch went very well but we soon learned that we needed to start organising earlier as we were getting asked about the lunch in September. We moved to a bigger venue with easier access and parking so this will be our second year.
I shall never forget arriving at the hall last year and finding a big bag with little mesh bags containing Christmas gold coins, enough for all our guests. These were a gift from a local guide group. There was plenty of merriment and a few games to get everyone into the party mood. Everyone has such a lot of fun, the guests are all a lively bunch and it is great to see new friendships formed and everyone having a great time together, there are so many great characters. The day is the talk of the town for many months.
Of course there is a serious side to our venture. We know that there are many people who we can’t reach, but in our own way we are helping. Last year we introduced “pay it forward”, through our contacts at the Charles Thompson Mission in Birkenhead and our guests can give a donation to the charity that does so much for the homeless and needy as there is a big problem in Birkenhead. The mission puts on their own Christmas Day meal so our donations help to fund the cost.’
Kind volunteers like this are the backbone of communities and do so much to end isolation on Christmas Day. Thank you!