RECORD numbers of people who would otherwise be alone have signed up to a free Christmas Day meal to the delight of organisers.
The free four-course lunch, which includes free transport, is staged inside a venue in Hartlepool every year.
Each year dozens of people put their names down but this year a record number will be enjoying the festive feast.
The lunch, which is supported by the Hartlepool Voluntary Development Agency (HVDA) is aimed at anyone, regardless of their age, whether it be widows, disabled people or young people who find themselves alone.
Co-ordinator Rob Swan, 49, from the Oxford Road area of Hartlepool, said: “We have had record numbers this year and we are expecting a full house on Christmas Day.
“I have always wanted to make it a family event and this year we have 15 children coming along with their parents.
“That will help liven it up and we are all looking forward to it.”
He added that a recent appeal in the Mail helped boost the numbers.
The event can cater for more than 60 people.
On the day 20 volunteers give up their own time to chop vegetables, cook, set the table, wrap presents and wash up the mountain of dishes.
Everyone that turns up also receives a present.
The event costs between £600 and £800 to stage and organisers have received donations from a number of businesses and individuals willing to help out.
Rob, a dad-of-one, who works for Darchem Engineering, in Stillington, near Stockton, said: “I would like to thank Heerema, Huntsman Tioxide, Hartlepool Lions, SABIC, Darchem, the Manor West Centre for their support, and one of our regular volunteers, Jayne Curtis, who travels from Hexham and has donated money
“Plus everyone else that is giving up their time.”
The turkey is cooked before and dropped in by a local butcher, but the rest of the meal will be cooked on site.
In the past the event has been organised by Oxford Road Baptist Church, HVDA, and in recent years the church administrator at the venue, which is not revealed in case volunteers are overwhelmed on the day.