A festive gathering

MEGAN MILLER
Last updated 14:03 25/12/2012
timaru community christmas dinner
JOHN BISSET/ Fairfax NZ
Shane Brady and Ramarie Darling get up to dance at the Timaru Community Christmas Dinner at the Caroline Bay Hall.

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The Timaru Community Christmas Dinner was in full swing by 12pm today, with volunteers dishing out heaping platefuls of food and musicians on stage to entertain the guests.

The turnout at the Caroline Bay Hall was lower than expected, with an estimated 180 people in attendance, co-organiser Mark Bourassa said. But the mood was festive and everyone appeared to be enjoying the gathering.

''It's about the giving and receiving,'' he said. ''How many of these people would be sitting home without someone to share the day with? Some of the volunteers also said they didn't have anything going on today and they wanted to come down and help.''

Among those sitting down to enjoy the meal were Michelle Penny and her mother, Gladys Penny, both of Timaru. Michelle said she had never attended the event before but found it a nice opportunity to meet people and enjoy some Christmas cheer.

"I brought my mum out because it's just us in Timaru by ourselves today," she said. "I think it's lovely. It's great to see everyone out together."

This year's dinner was nearly canceled after organisers initially had problems coming up with volunteers to put everything together. It was rescued by Mr Bourassa and his 101, the Mental Wellness Drop-in Centre, colleagues John Fallon and Lou Adams with the help of many other volunteers.

''We had an incredible day yesterday,'' Mr Bourassa said. ''There was nothing in the hall when we started and people just showed up to decorate the whole place. The crew in the kitchen have been amazing. Everyone has been amazing.''

The project received a huge outpouring of support in the form of food and monetary donations from local businesses, community groups and individuals, he said. Among the items received: 300 chicken breasts, six hams and extra desserts.

''For us it was just a matter of putting the pieces together.''

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- The Timaru Herald

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