Community Christmas in Timaru
The Timaru Community Christmas dinner was in full swing by 12pm yesterday, with volunteers dishing out heaped 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.
They'd prepared for at least 250. 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.''Joy and Harvey Daniel, of Temuka, said it was also their first time attending the dinner, and they were impressed with the amount of preparation that went into the event.
''It's lovely. Look at the table, the lovely decorations,'' Mrs Daniel said.
''They did a lot of work to bring this together.''
Entertainment included live music by the Dutch Nightingale Choir, a travelling children's choir, as well as soloists such as Timaru's own Ella Thomas.
There was also entertainment by Puzzle the Clown and an original play written by Saramea Latimer about Santa Claus coming to New Zealand for a Kiwi Christmas.
This year's dinner was nearly cancelled after organisers initially had problems coming up with volunteers.
It was rescued by Mr Bourassa and his 101, the Mental Wellness Drop-in Centre, colleagues John dhFallon and Lou Adams, with the help of many other supporters.
''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 were 300 chicken breasts, six hams and extra desserts.
The Timaru Herald