Dozens enjoy festive treat

ORGANISERS have hailed a free Christmas Day meal enjoyed by record numbers as a huge success.

More than 70 people, who would otherwise be alone at this time of year, crammed into a community room at Grange Road Methodist Church, in Hartlepool to enjoy a festive feast.

The free four-course lunch, which included free transport, is staged every year.

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.

Ahead of the meal, numbers were boosted thanks to an appeal in the Mail.

Co-ordinator Rob Swan, 49, from the Oxford Road area of town, said: “We had 75 people in total including 16 children.

“It was a brilliant day and the atmosphere was incredible.

“I didn’t expect it to be as successful as it was and most people agreed that it was the best one we have ever had.”

On Christmas Day 20 volunteers gave up their own time to chop vegetables, cook, set the table, wrap presents and wash up the mountain of dishes afterwards.

Everyone that turned up also received a present.

Rob thanked the team of volunteers, Grange Road Methodist Church for hosting the meal and G Davison & Sons butchers for supplying the meat.

The Manor West Centre, Mal Harcourt, Freda Wilkinson and Haydn Austin have also been praised for supplying free transport.

Rob, a dad-of-one, who works for Darchem Engineering, in Stillington, near Stockton, is now enjoying a well-earned rest.

But he is already planning next year’s event.

Rob added: “It is a great venue and the church is very keen for us to hold it there again.”

In the past the event has been organised by Oxford Road Baptist Church, HVDA, and in recent years the church administrator at the town centre venue.

The event costs between £600 and £800 to stage and organisers received donations from a number of businesses and individuals willing to help out.