Volunteering at Norwich Open Christmas is ‘the best fun for the day’
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
The festive season is not always full of joy for all, and can be a lonely time if you have to spend Christmas on your own.
But organisations across the region tried to make sure no one had to spend the big day alone if they did not want to, by opening their doors - and their hearts - to anyone who wanted a hot meal and some company.
In Norwich, the Open Christmas event saw its busiest ever year, with organisers Colin and Linda Harper saying there were around 500 guests tucking into a dinner with all the trimmings, and listening to beautifully sung hymns and carols.
Mrs Harper said: 'One of the things we're often asked about is the number of volunteers prepared to give up Christmas Day. But we don't see it as giving up our time, we're giving the gift of love, care and kindness.'
This year, the event had a total of 276 volunteers, a far cry from the 20 who helped out when the day first began 25 years ago.
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Some 214 of those were at St Andrew's Hall yesterday, doing everything from serving cups of tea to directing people where to go, while others had been working hard in preparation for weeks beforehand.
Two of the kind-hearted people pitching in were Geraldine and Tony Waring, who have been helping out for 10 years.
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Mrs Waring, a credit controller who lives in Norwich, said: 'It's great fun, people often say we're so noble but it's the best fun for the day.'
The 52-year-old added: 'It's become a lot more professional, it's like a military machine now, and there are more services like the Citizens Advice Bureau being here.'
Mr Waring, who helped to introduce the CAB to the event, said it was helpful because it was then easy for people to access without barriers.
'We also have the RSPCA here for the dogs, and hearing checks and healthcare professionals.'
And it was fortunate that the event had fully qualified healthcare professionals on hand, as one man was taken to hospital after suffering what was thought to be a heart attack at the event.
However, a volunteer member of accident and emergency staff said it was thought he would recover.
Other guests, such as 81-year-old Rene Denny, from Loddon, and 71-year-old Richard Cockrill, from Norwich, said they had come the previous year and enjoyed it so much they returned.
'It's absolutely brilliant,' said Mrs Denny.
'I've made a new friend, the entertainment is fantastic and there's no washing up.'