Family honours dad by helping others make merry
The Finch family couldn't face Christmas this year.
Instead, they spent December 24 and 25 working to feed 172 hungry stomachs during the annual Christmas lunch at the Salvation Army's Hamilton Community Ministries, also known as The Nest.
Barbara Finch, her son Barry, his wife Trish and their two daughters Samantha and Codie, were busy in the kitchen as the homeless, lonely and desperate arrived in London St for the annual meal and celebration.
The Finches had one objective: to cook enough kumara, potato, ham, turkey, stuffing, gravy, fresh vegetables and pigs-in-a-blanket to feed 122 clients, slightly more than last year, and 50 volunteers who were hosting each table.
Then there was dessert: pavlova, chocolate-covered strawberries, kiwifruit and cream.
But the Finches had a stronger, more personal reason for being there: family patriarch Don "Rusty" Finch.
In June Barbara Finch found husband Don dead from an out-of-the-blue heart attack.
"We couldn't really face Christmas," Barry Finch said.
"So we decided we'd do something for someone else because we knew that would make Dad very proud."
Barry Finch teaches students how to become chefs at Wintec and had worked with the Salvation Army in the past.
So when they contacted him, asking if he knew anyone who could help this year, a thought crossed his mind.
"I spoke to my wife, and mum, and we all agreed it was a good thing to do. The right thing to do. It's personal but it's nice to help other people out."
Colonel Wilfred Arnold, director of The Nest, has done plenty of that in his 42 years with the Salvation Army, yet 2012 is his last in charge.
Retirement beckons. However the annual Christmas dinner in London St always sparks memories of the people he's known throughout his years working for the Sallies in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand.
"For us it's a brilliant time," he said.
Most people who turned up to yesterday's meal would have been referred by social workers, Mr Arnold said.
Others were lonely. Or sad.
"We try to say this is for people who would otherwise be on their own," Mr Arnold said.
"I think one of the sinister things of our world at the moment is loneliness. It could be the first Christmas after losing a loved one - a wife, partner or husband - and it's just the thought of coming to Christmas when everyone else is happy and full of joy, but for them it's not a nice time at all.
"So this allows them, I think, to take some time out from that isolation and to join something. That's why we've done it the way we have. It's not just people getting served: every table has a host. They are there to engage them and be with them."
The Christmas dinner was possible due to generous donations of food, time and money from the the community, Mr Arnold said.