The annual Christmas meal for the needy in Hartlepool will go ahead despite the closure of the organisation which helped to put on the event just a few months ago.
The meal had its future thrown into doubt just three months before Christmas with the closure of Hartlepool Voluntary Development Agency (HDVA) at the end of September.
HVDA had long been established as the single contact point for people wanting to attend the meal, for fundraising, and for volunteers wanting to help.
Resident Rob Swan took over the planning and organisation of the event nine years ago, and he has organised it every year since, under the auspices of HVDA.
Rob originally got involved when he spotted an article, published in the Mail, following an appeal for a volunteer, as the previous organisers could no longer undertake the job and the Christmas Meal’s future was in jeopardy.
The closure of HVDA was a significant blow, as the group undertook the fundraising for the event, which is financed by generous donations from businesses.
Over the year the numbers using the service has increased from about 50 people in 2009 to 90 or more.
Rob said: “So many people who would either be alone at Christmas or who cannot cater for themselves have come to rely on this event.
“Recent cutbacks in Government and local authority funding, and in benefits and services, are having an extremely serious impact on the elderly, the vulnerable and those out of work.
“You only realise how serious the problem is when you get personally involved with those who have to live on benefits and rely directly on public support services, and it’s truly shocking just how bad the situation is.
“If I can keep the Christmas Meal going, I will.”
The Christmas Meal, which is provided free of charge to all who attend, is held at a venue in Hartlepool on Christmas Day.
Transport is provided, to and from the venue, for those who need it, including wheelchair users, and the event includes a full three-course Christmas dinner, with all the trimmings, and a small hamper of food and festive treats to take home.
Booking is necessary as places are limited.
Anyone who is interested can call in at the Belle Vue Centre in Kendal Road or ring 01429 221832 or visit the People Centre in Raby Road (01429) 861144 and book a place for the meal or volunteer to help.