ALMOST 50 elderly residents enjoyed a Christmas lunch full of festive cheer, hosted by Chipping Sodbury Big Lunch.

Last Friday’s event at the Masonic Hall was the fourth annual Christmas Big Lunch and brought together older members of the community who may be isolated or lonely this festive season. 

Guests have been invited via care homes, elderly people’s charities and the home library service as well as through individuals and word of mouth. Many have no family and do not have access to transport but the Big Lunch committee organised and funded return travel, in association with Green Community Travel, enabling people to get to the event.

Chipping Sodbury Big Lunch chairman Alexandra Womack said: “We had 47 guests seated at this year’s Big Lunch, our biggest Christmas event to date, and we delivered a further three turkey dinners to several people who were too unwell to attend.

“There was such a wonderful, community spirit of togetherness on display during the event from the businesses and individuals who have helped fund the day and popped in to meet the guests to the small army of volunteers who gave up their time to help serve lunch.

“We are so grateful to everyone who helped make the day possible, from The Squire Inn which gave us all the wine and sherry to Waitrose’s Community Matters scheme which we were part of during November, raising £495. Through a few simple Facebook posts we collected enough donations of gifts to send all our guests home with a Christmas present, which was a lovely addition to the lunch itself.”

The Big Lunch group, which holds its main event for the whole community in Broad Street every June, raised its own funds to cover the event through a pub quiz in the autumn and was successful in bidding for grants from Chipping Sodbury Rotary Club and Chipping Sodbury Town Lands’ Charity. Other businesses to make donations included The Scissor Hut on North Road, Yate, The Sodbury Florist, Chipping Sodbury Cricket Club and James Ball Cars.

There was a free raffle, singing from St John’s Mead Primary School choir and a Christmas carols sing-a-long.

“The volunteers who help at this event enjoy it as much as the guests,” said Alexandra. “It really is a very special day for all involved.

“Testament to this is the lasting friendships struck up between many of the volunteers and our elderly guests, meaning some of those lonely and vulnerable people who attended on Friday will now have someone who send them a Christmas card every year or even visit them over the festive season.

“Most of us have lots of social occasions and parties to attend during December but a surprising number of people are completely alone. If we have helped alleviate that loneliness, even just for a few hours, then we have achieved something good and will continue working to bring members of our community together.”