Plenty of cheer at communal lunch

FRANCESCA LEE
Last updated 05:00 26/12/2012
Christchurch City Mission
DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ

FESTIVE: Maiden Milton, 8, left, and Anzonette, 11, enjoy some festive cheer with their nine-month-old brother, TeAroha, at his first Christmas lunch at the Christchurch City Mission.

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Live music, food and company drew hundreds of people to the Christchurch City Mission's Christmas lunch.

About 140 volunteers, including Crusaders rugby players, helped to prepare the meal for about 650 at Christchurch East School.

City Missioner Michael Gorman said the event seemed "a lot more relaxed" after last year's December 23 earthquake put Cantabrians on edge.

Lucia Miles, of Linwood, attended with her five children and best friend Mandy Freeman, who was visiting from the West Coast.

"I enjoy the atmosphere and the people," Miles said.

First-time attendee Steve, who wanted only his first name used, said the lunch was appreciated by people like himself who had no family around at this time of year.

"It's just nice when you are on your own and there's somewhere you can go to and have a meal on Christmas Day," he said.

Volunteer Army Foundation chairman Raf Manji, wife Prue and their two sons volunteered at the lunch. "We just thought, ‘Let's do something different.' We've always wanted to do it for a long time.

"It makes the day a little broader. You can get out there and make a contribution to the community and then still go home to have Christmas dinner," he said.

Kevin Cross, of Halswell, has volunteered at the lunch as a security guard for 30 years.

"The City Mission helped me out when I was homeless and I'm just paying them back," he said.

"I enjoy myself every year. How can you not enjoy yourself when there are smiles on kids' faces and on adults' faces?"

Cross said he saw familiar faces every year and had made many friends through the lunch.

Christchurch Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews said the event was a wonderful occasion.

"There are fewer numbers this year and that's maybe a good thing because people felt they could get away for a few days. Last year, everyone was a bit shell-shocked because of the December 23 earthquakes."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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