Major ensures it is not Christmas Alone in Lowestoft

With six children and seven grandchildren, Christmas is a big occasion for the Salvation Army's Major Barry Willson.

But his own family celebrations were put on hold on Christmas Day as he made sure the day was special for more than 100 people who might otherwise have been facing a lonely time.

He and his wife Cindy have been running 'Christmas Alone' in Lowestoft for 30 years and are grateful to volunteers for all the hard work that goes into the event in the Salvation Army Citadel in Battery Green Road.

He said: 'People are very generous with their donations; pupils at Roman Hill Middle School in Lowestoft raised �300 carol singing and that sum was matched by the school, while East Point Rotary Club bought our turkeys.'

Maj Willson said the hard work began on Christmas Eve when 30 volunteers, including Waveney MP Peter Aldous, turned up to prepare the food, which included seven turkey joints, sacks of potatoes and carrots and a veritable mountain of Brussel sprouts.

As well as a four-course Christmas dinner, people were treated to an afternoon of entertainment, including a demonstration of 1940s-style dancing by Jive Bunnies Nigel and Gill Oates.

He said: 'The people who come here for Christmas include many who access our services throughout the year. They are mainly vulnerable and disadvantaged people who range in age from their early 20s to pensioners.

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'While there are not many people sleeping rough at this time of year, they include sofa surfers and people living in small bedsits.'

Maj Willson said he and his volunteers were conscious of the potentially problematic mix of frail elderly people and people with a challenged lifestyle.

'We make sure everyone has a good time and in all the years we have been running it there have never been any incidents,' he said.

'Everyone goes away with a parcel and extra food including fruit.'

Two of the visitors, Ann Williams, 70, and Alan Howard, 72, said they had been coming for three years and it was now their Christmas.