On Christmas day, I volunteered at Community Concern Erewash’s Christmas lunch.
The lunch is provided at The Pavilion, Cotmanhay, for those who may otherwise spend the day alone or unable to cook for themselves.
Lunches, teas and presents are delivered to those who are unable to get to the community centre.
There are a number of volunteering roles on the day – from peeling spuds to delivering meals. Meeting and greeting the guests is particularly important, as is keeping the company of anyone who comes alone.
The volunteering team are a great bunch of people and the day was hard work but with plenty of laughs.
This year, on arrival at The Pavilion around 10.30am, I was greeted by Catherine Atkinson – our local Labour Party Parliamentary candidate. Catherine, I understand, is no stranger to the event and has helped out before.
She was in charge of directing all those, including me and my partner, Andy, who had volunteered to deliver lunches.
Once back at The Pavilion and after a cup of tea, it was time to get stuck into the washing up whilst singing a few Christmas tunes along with our guests who were by then tucking into Jane’s famous trifle.
After lunch, Catherine relieved me of my kitchen duties and Andy and I presented a Christmas quiz to round off the day.
Christmas is a magical time of year for many people. But for some, the emphasis that is placed on happy families, festive feasts, and expensive gifts brings stress and anxiety. For them the magic is often replaced by mayhem. The family falls out. The turkey is dry. The financial debt is huge.
For those without family or friends, Christmas can be lonely and a time at which the memories of loved ones who have passed away are especially vivid.
The team behind Community Concern Erewash’s Christmas lunch remember these people, as well as welcoming those who perhaps simply know that their cooking can’t match Jane’s.
The commitment of this team - both on the day and on the run up to the event - is phenomenal and if there ever was a worthy nominee for the New Year Honours list it would be head chef Jane.
Rookie volunteers like me however get away with many fewer hours on the day than Jane and her kitchen crew. I left at 4pm.
Just after Catherine I hasten to add – who stayed all day and unwittingly changed my mind about politicians.
As someone who is new to the area, I am grateful to all those at Bright Street for providing such fantastic services (the launderette is fabulous) and for extending such a warm welcome to me and Andy. To find out more about Community Concern Erewash, see www.communityconcernerewash.co.uk.