Many of us are planning Christmas on a budget this year, intending to cut down on festive food and gifts; but sadly for some, Christmas is ‘just another day’ and the things that many of us take for granted such as family, food, presents and great company all the things that make Christmas the pinnacle of the year, will be missing.
For many, Christmas stirs up family tensions, increases feelings of isolation and evokes financial pressure, which is why a dedicated group of volunteers come together annually to organise a free Christmas extravaganza for those in the community who are facing hardship or find Christmas a difficult time, turning it around to still make it ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’
Vineyard Compassion, a charity of Causeway Coast Vineyard, is already making preparations for this five-course feast which will be held at their contemporary complex at Hillman’s Way, off Ballycastle Road, Coleraine.
The volunteer team consists of around 40 volunteers from Causeway Coast Vineyard and nearby churches and all the food, decorations, treats and surprises are donated by businesses and individuals from the local area.
Heading up the team of volunteers is Steve Frazer. Steve says “This event is open to everyone – for people on their own, those who are isolated and away from home, people who don’t have family, anyone who is struggling financially, or for those who just find Christmas a difficult time for whatever the reason. All ages and families are welcome and there is no cost involved.”
The team comes in on Christmas Eve to set up and help create a fun, family atmosphere as well as making food preparations for the five-course meal. Transport can be provided on Christmas morning for guests from designated places in Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart.
Guests arrive to a mulled wine and shortbread reception and then sit down to their sumptuous meal. During the celebrations there is a sing-song of carols and after a long-night of hard work Santa will have time to pop in to make an appearance.
Vineyard Compassion works with various voluntary and statutory agencies such as the Simon Community, Women’s Aid/Refuge, Social Services, Triangle Housing, SureStart and CRUN and the organisations encourage their clients to avail of Vineyard Compassion’s provisions. Vineyard Compassion is delighted that guests come back year after year though guests are never asked about their background as volunteer workers respect the privacy and dignity of those they serve.
With Vineyard Compassion providing food and emergency essentials throughout the year via their Foodbank programmes and debt counselling through Christians Against Poverty (CAP) they are only too aware of the harrowing situations people are facing in these current times.
They would encourage those thinking about coming to the Christmas dinner to come along and enjoy the day.
However, guests who would like to avail of the Christmas Day Dinner need to pre-book in order for the team to accommodate any individual requirements.
Festivities kick off at 11.15am and last until around 2.30pm. The five-course meal consists of the full works – homemade vegetable soup to start off with then a main course of turkey, ham, stuffing and all the traditional trimmings, choice of dessert and if you’re still hungry there’s tea/coffee and mince pies to finish off with.
Steve said: “We all have a great day and the volunteers are amazing! They bring the atmosphere with them, the love and compassion and aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and do what needs done. Along with the guests, they really make it the most wonderful time of the year, so, no matter what your circumstances are we would be delighted to have you as our guest on Christmas Day.”
If you would like to join us, please contact Vineyard Compassion on 028 7022 0005 Option 5 to reserve your place.