Charity volunteers in Newton Aycliffe come together to put on special dinner for those faced with spending Christmas alone

The Northern Echo: Volunteers and visitors tuck in. Pic: Chris Booth Volunteers and visitors tuck in. Pic: Chris Booth

MORE than 80 people came together for a special Christmas dinner with the help of a North-East charity.

Lifeline Community Action, a Christian charity in Newton Aycliffe, put on the festive event today (Christmas Day) to ensure no-one was on their own.

The dinner, which is part of the charity’s Helping Hands project, took place in the Bethany Centre, Newton Aycliffe.

Guests received a four-course meal, together with, among other things, a personal Christmas card, present, framed photograph and a visit from Father Christmas.

There were also music, quizzes and pass the parcel on offer.

Organisers were inundated with volunteers after a plea for help was issued.

Susan Sadler, of Lifeline Community Action, said: “This is the first year we have done this. We did not want people to be alone this Christmas, unless they want to be of course.

“We are delighted with how it has turned out.”

She added: “It is not a question of if we do this again, it’s when, with how many and where.”

Volunteer Lesley Campbell, of Newton Aycliffe, said: “I was going to be on my own so I wanted to get involved. It reminds you that there are people a lot worse off than you.

“It is absolutely brilliant.”

Another volunteer, Sylvia Shaw, of Darlington, has spent previous years looking for similar schemes without success.

“There is a lot happening in the run up to Christmas, but once it gets to Christmas Day, there is nothing,” she said. “I am pleased to be a part of it.”

As Christmas Day approached, volunteers at all 16 of the county’s food banks were working extra hard to ensure families and individuals had enough food.

Peter McClellan, of Durham Foodbank, said: “We have been giving out extra food and treats such as Christmas puddings and canned ham.

“The last two weeks have been very busy and our volunteers have worked so hard. We have given out about 250 hampers.

“Christmas can be a difficult time as many families are struggling to make ends meet as it is.

“The only saving grace this Christmas is that it hasn’t been as cold as in recent years and people are not having to choose between food and heat.”

Elsewhere, the Castlegate Shopping Centre, in Stockton, served more than 200 meals in its first open kitchen.

The one-day event, which was part of the community project Hampers from the Heart, was a collaboration of charities, businesses and volunteers, and took place at the town’s Parish Hall.

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