Vineyard Compassion holding Christmas Dinner

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MANY of us are planning a more frugal Christmas 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 the festive season 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 new contemporary complex at Hillman’s Way, off Ballycastle Road, Coleraine.

Vineyard Compassion held its first Christmas Day dinner in 2001 at Milburn Primary School with the last three years hosting the event in the Sandal Centre, Coleraine.

This year, the Compassion team is excited about having their own premises and full catering kitchen to enable them to cater for over 100 guests on the most celebrated day of the year.

The volunteer team consists of around 40 volunteers from CCV 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 Pat Storey along with Vineyard Compassion worker, Melanie Gibson who is the charity’s food-bank co-ordinator.

They say that the 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. 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 the Triangle area.

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.

The church works with various voluntary and statutory agencies such as the Simon Community, Women’s Aid, Women’s Refuge, Social Services, Triangle Housing, Surestart and CRUN and the organisations encourage their clients to avail of Vineyard’s provisions.

The church 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.

Festivities kick off at 11.30am and last until around 2pm. 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 and after-dinner mints.

Melanie says “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.”

If you would like to join the festivities at Vineyard on Christmas Day you will be very welcome, please contact Vineyard Compassion on 07743 008 238 to reserve your place.