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Festive feasts feed hundreds around region

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 26/12/2013
Hineakura Watson
ROBERT CHARLES/FAIRFAX NZ
MERRY CHRISTMAS: Waitara’s Hineakura Watson, 5, was all smiles as she spoke to Santa Claus at a free festive feast in New Plymouth yesterday.

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Hundreds of people enjoyed a free community Christmas lunch around Taranaki yesterday.

New Plymouth's Community Christmas Charitable Trust fed about 220 people at the St Joseph's hall while in Hawera about 100 people enjoyed a festive feast at the Baptist Church with the help of the Assembly of God Church.

Trust organiser Carol Fisher, New Plymouth, said a team of 70 volunteers had helped prepare and serve the lunch.

"I put them in teams to do everything," Mrs Fisher said.

"It goes like clock-work nowadays; when we first started we didn't really know what we were doing."

Mrs Fisher said the lunch had been running for about 27 years and it was the great community spirit that kept her involved.

"This, the people and the whole atmosphere," she said glancing around the packed hall.

Tim Hall and Ryland Sheard played Christmas tunes as the crowd filed into the hall and even Santa Claus showed up, bringing a smile to the faces of the children and those young at heart.

Former New Plymouth mayor and MP Harry Duynhoven has been a regular helper at the lunch since he was first elected to Parliament.

"I just think it's a very good community act - some people don't have anybody else," Mr Duynhoven said.

"It gives them somewhere to go and be part of the community."

Waitara's Renne Watson said her mother was a volunteer at the event so she had brought her family to have lunch.

"She wanted us to come and have some Christmas lunch with her," Ms Watson said.

Meanwhile in Hawera, Michelle Herbert had wanted to volunteer but was surprised to discover there had not been a lunch organised.

She decided to do it herself and yesterday, with the help of 20 volunteers and the support of local businesses, they put on a Christmas dinner for about 100 people.

Mrs Herbert said local businesses had been "marvellous" with their support of the event.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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