Festive lunch dished up to vulnerable and lonely

Gatehouse Christmas day meal at St Benedict's Catholic School in Bury. Serving is Jim Herrington.

Gatehouse Christmas day meal at St Benedict's Catholic School in Bury. Serving is Jim Herrington. - Credit: Gregg Brown

More than 200 lonely and vulnerable people were able to sit down to a Christmas lunch amongst company on Friday thanks to two charitable meals organised in Suffolk.

Charity Christmas dinner for the lonely at United Reformed Church, Stowmarket.

Charity Christmas dinner for the lonely at United Reformed Church, Stowmarket. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Bury St Edmunds charity The Gatehouse hosted 120 people in one sitting at St Benedict’s Catholic School, 50 more than last year.

Supported by an army of 70 volunteer chefs, drivers, helpers and organisers, not to mention donations of food, items and cash, the event was hailed as a great success by organisers.

Amanda Bloomfield, who helped bring the event together, said: “It is for people who for whatever reason are going to be alone on Christmas.

“Loneliness is particularly bad at this time of year, so little things like this make a massive difference. We have older people, people on their own through bereavement, street homeless people, younger people whose families have moved away – it is open to anyone on their own on Christmas Day.”

Charity Christmas dinner for the lonely at United Reformed Church, Stowmarket.

Charity Christmas dinner for the lonely at United Reformed Church, Stowmarket. - Credit: Gregg Brown

She said thank you to all the volunteers. “Without them this whole meal would never get off the ground,” she said. “I would like to pay a special thank you to our chef Jim Herrington, this is the 16th year he has cooked for us.”

The St Edmundsbury borough Mayor Patrick Chung also attended, saying thank you to the charity and volunteers.

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“It is a great thing that Gatehouse do for Bury St Edmunds,” he said. “It is fantastic that so many people are here and not alone.”

In Stowmarket, more than 100 elderly and vulnerable people turned out for a similar event held at the United Reformed Church.

Organised by Michelle Frost, who had previously volunteered with The Gatehouse charity, the event offered a three-course lunch and an afternoon of entertainment. Guests enjoyed either soup or pate to start, followed by traditional roast turkey or gammon, rounded off by Christmas pudding and a selection of other desserts, with live choir performances, several rounds of bingo, a raffle and board games keeping everyone entertained.

It was the second lunch of its kind organised by Miss Frost, who saw the number of attendees double this year.

Speaking after the event, Miss Frost said: “The whole day was just fantastic. At 4 o’clock everybody was still singing. You walked in and the atmosphere was fantastic. It brought me to tears a couple of times.

“Some of the stories you hear as you go around the tables, it’s just heartbreaking. That’s why I do it.

“It’s just an amazing day.”

Miss Frost sent particular thanks to the Asda Foundation, Stowmarket Town Council and Buildbase for funding the event, along with TSB for donating board games, the mayor and mayoress Barry and Heather Salmon for spending the day with them and the team of volunteers who helped make the day a success.

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