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‘Shining examples of the true spirit of Christmas’: Community volunteers save Woodford church lunch for pensioners

PUBLISHED: 17:01 29 December 2017

(L-R) Paloma Huelva, Denise Skelton, Mary Osho and sister Gloria Osho, and Shaun Acharya from Barkingside. Photo: Father William Obedoza

(L-R) Paloma Huelva, Denise Skelton, Mary Osho and sister Gloria Osho, and Shaun Acharya from Barkingside. Photo: Father William Obedoza

Archant

Community volunteers saved Christmas lunch at a Woodford church for elderly residents facing loneliness.

Volunteer Paloma Huelda befriends one of the guests at the St Barnabas Christmas lunch. Photo: Father William ObedozaVolunteer Paloma Huelda befriends one of the guests at the St Barnabas Christmas lunch. Photo: Father William Obedoza

St Barnabas Church, in Snakes Lane East, Woodford Green, hosts an annual lunch for elderly members of community in their church hall on Christmas Day.

But this year, a number of regular church volunteers were struck with illness and could not attend.

This left the task of cooking, catering and entertaining an anticipated 40 guests on the day in the hands of only four people.

Rather than call off the event the vicar, Father William Obedoza, appealed for volunteers on through charity Community Christmas.

Guests enjoy lunch at St Barnabas Christmas Lunch. Photo: Father William ObedozaGuests enjoy lunch at St Barnabas Christmas Lunch. Photo: Father William Obedoza

His prayers were answers by five volunteers.

He said: “On Christmas Day we have two masses followed by the lunch.

“Had it not been for the volunteers it would have been extremely difficult.”

“I am really happy the event went ahead. Without it the guests would be lonely. The aim is to give them Christmas joy.”

Woodford Green resident Bebe Stubbert, who lives on St Barnabus Road, has been attending the Christmas lunches at the church for six years.

“When the volunteers turned up it was such a godsend and miracle,” she said.

“These young Londoners saved our community event.”

At 1pm, 20 guests sat down to enjoy a turkey and beef dinner, with all the trimmings, Christmas pudding and wine.

The volunteers cooked lunch, set up the dining tables and decorated the hall and helped with the washing up and cleaning.

They included Mary and Gloria Osho from Barking, Shaun Achaya from Barkingside, Denise Skelton from Hackney and Paloma Huedla from Colindale.

After the meal, guests were entertained by congregation musicians Rachel and Mick Gavin.

Bebe added: “These young people gave up their Christmas Day to help strangers and are shining examples of the true spirit of Christmas.”

Father Obedoza intends to the run the Christmas lunch again next year.

Community Christmas is registered charity which believes that no elderly person should spend Christmas alone, unless they want to be.

To volunteer at an event, or post a request for volunteers, go to: https://communitychristmas.org.uk/map/

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