A TEAM of kindhearted volunteers are gearing up to provide a free Christmas Day lunch for dozens of needy people.
A total of 80 people will sit down for a traditional four-course lunch of roast turkey with all the trimmings on Christmas Day with a team of 22 volunteers ensuring the festive treat goes smoothly.
Rob Swan, 50, co-ordinates the event which Hartlepool Voluntary Development Agency (HVDA), in Victoria Road, helps organise.
It is made possible thanks to the hard work of volunteers and generous donations from business across town.
Rob, a dad-of-one, said: “The meal is a great thing to be part of and I still get a great buzz out of it.
“We have a lot of new volunteers this year as well as the regulars and it is great to have that many people helping out.
“This year we have 18 children coming along, which really helps create a magical atmosphere,” added Rob who works at Darchem Engineering, in Stillington.
He thanked Sabic, Hartlepool Lions, the crisis team at Hartlepool Borough Council, Darchem Engineering and Davison’s Butchers at Fens shops for their contributions towards the food, crackers, table spreads and presents.
The meal is traditionally open to those who would otherwise be along, single parents or those who can’t or are unable to cook.
This is the fourth year that Rob has co-ordinated the meal and he said he will be doing it for at least the next two years.
Rob added: “I cant think of a better way to spend Christmas Day.”
The meat is pre-cooked and on the day the team of volunteers give up their own time to chop vegetables, cook, set the table, wrap presents and wash up the mountain of dishes afterwards.
The event usually costs between £600 and £800 to stage.
It usually sees between 70 and 80 people sit down for lunch but until a couple of weeks ago the number stood at just 26.
An appeal went in the Mail and organisers say they are now fully booked.
Peter Gowland, of HVDA, said: “Thanks to the Hartlepool Mail we are now fully booked which is great to see.”
He thanked the volunteers, businesses for their donations and the venue for providing the facilities.
The location in central Hartlepool is not made public so the volunteers are not overwhelmed by people on the day.
Guests can also attend a nearby church service beforehand if they wish.
Transport is provided to the venue and back home again and Santa also puts in an appearance and everyone who attends goes home with a free gift.
HVDA has been organising the festive lunch for around the last nine years and has been provided for more than 20 years in town.