A generous helping of community spirit was served up in Swaffham, where a full Christmas dinner was provided for anyone who did not want to spend the day alone.

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More than 50 people arrived at the Assembly Rooms on the town’s Market Place, with several brought in on minibuses from surrounding villages.

They were greeted by a team of volunteers who had given up their time to prepare and serve a three-course meal, with food, gifts and sweets donated by local traders, large and small.

The event was organised by Karen and Jeff Halstead, with the help of the Iceni Partnership.

The Halsteads, originally from Arizona in America, moved to Sporle near Swaffham after Mr Halstead got his job as director of social services at the US Air Force base at RAF Lakenheath.

Mrs Halstead led the volunteer cooking team in the kitchens, which included servicemen and women from the air base. She said: “In the States, we did this every year for people in our community who were by themselves on Christmas. The Swaffham community has really embraced us and made us part of their family, so we wanted to do something for them.”

Mr Halstead added: “If you were in America, you would have this for retired people and that is exactly what we are doing here. We are serving the old and the vulnerable, and people who don’t have families of their own.”

The couple organised their first community Christmas meal at Swaffham’s Methodist Church last year, but moved the popular event to the larger venue of the Assembly Rooms after enlisting the help of the Iceni Partnership.

Don Saunders, Iceni Partnership manager, said: “We wanted to do something for the people who were going to be alone for Christmas.

“They don’t have to be old, or poor, or anything like that. It is just about bringing everybody together on Christmas day who would otherwise have been on their own.”

Donations ranging from fresh food to cash came from ABC Market Butchers, Iceni Partnership, Just Hair, Market Cross Cafe Bar, Norfolk Produce, Norman’s Mobile Village Store, Papworth Butchers, Pedlars Gold, Stratton’s Hotel and Waitrose supermarket.

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