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Extending hand of friendship on Christmas Day





KIND-hearted pupils at The Willows CE Primary School have collected and donated 24 boxes of food weighing a quarter of a ton to Stratford Foodbank in time for Christmas. School teacher Richard Sandle-Keynes came up with the idea of pupils taking part in a reverse advent calendar where instead of taking something out — like a chocolate treat from an advent calendar — pupils were encouraged to put something back instead. During the 12 days of advent that The Willows School was open, staff and pupils filled two boxes with food and toiletries each day. Last Friday a convoy of cars took the boxes to Stratford Foodbank where they will be handed out to people facing difficult times this Christmas. Pictured are acting headteacher at The Willows Primary School, Lara Jeffries and teacher, Richard Sandle-Keynes are pictured with pupils Thomas Hemming, Kayla Sands and Lily Devonald and some of their 24 food boxes. Photo: Andy Tinkler.
KIND-hearted pupils at The Willows CE Primary School have collected and donated 24 boxes of food weighing a quarter of a ton to Stratford Foodbank in time for Christmas. School teacher Richard Sandle-Keynes came up with the idea of pupils taking part in a reverse advent calendar where instead of taking something out — like a chocolate treat from an advent calendar — pupils were encouraged to put something back instead. During the 12 days of advent that The Willows School was open, staff and pupils filled two boxes with food and toiletries each day. Last Friday a convoy of cars took the boxes to Stratford Foodbank where they will be handed out to people facing difficult times this Christmas. Pictured are acting headteacher at The Willows Primary School, Lara Jeffries and teacher, Richard Sandle-Keynes are pictured with pupils Thomas Hemming, Kayla Sands and Lily Devonald and some of their 24 food boxes. Photo: Andy Tinkler.

THERE is no need to be alone this Christmas, thanks to generous people, who have given up their time to organise and host Christmas Day events in the Stratford-on-Avon district.

Lay coordinator Sheila Brown and volunteers will be cooking Christmas lunch for up to 70 guests at Stratford Methodist Church.

Lunch guests who haven’t attended the Christmas church service at 11am, will be welcome any time from 12.30pm, to be served a four-course lunch at approximately 1.30pm.

There will be a visit from Santa, and entertainment, including carol singing, piano recital and songs from a local tenor. Sheila said the lunch has traditionally been held by the church for many years, but the lady who originally organised it, was unable to do it two years ago.

She said: “Edward Moon, in the town, did a lunch last year but are not able to do it this year. That meant no provision at all for the lonely, those with mental health problems, or the homeless.”

Sheila explained that she decided to hold the lunch and added: “We have a good number of volunteers for before and on the day to help with all kinds of jobs — from setting up tables to peeling veg.”

Elsewhere, three former Shipston High School pupils are organising a free special Christmas Day event in Shipston, to try and ensure nobody is on their own this Christmas.

Tessa Hince, 30, who lives in Brailes, and her friends Hayley Ash, also 30, and 28-year-old Danni Sababa, who both live in Shipston, came up with the idea of holding a free Shipston Community Christmas Lunch.

Tessa explained the lunch, at Townsend Hall, is for anybody who wants to be in company on Christmas Day. She said: “We’re encouraging people to come along, stay and eat, help out and enjoy the day.

“The three of us have quite big families, and have an appreciation of having that comfort. It’s for people young or old, rich or poor, but there’s no need to be alone this year.”

They have received a donation of £1,000 and also a donation of £250 from private donors. The day will include a Christmas bingo, raffle, turkey roast, wine, tea, coffee, sherry and juice, Christmas pudding, including cream and ice-cream, rental of a television screen showing the Queen’s Speech and Christmas carols, as well as presents from Santa for all.

Any money left over will be donated to the Stour Valley Lions to be used to support their work in the community of Shipston.

Meanwhile, Alveston Leys Bupa Care Home, on Kissing Tree Lane, in Alveston, is inviting older people, who would otherwise be alone on Christmas Day, to join them for festive food and fun in a warm, friendly atmosphere.

The home has partnered with Community Christmas, a charity that believes no elderly person in the UK should be alone on Christmas Day, unless they want to be.

Karen Keen, home manager at Alveston Leys, said: “We know loneliness is a growing issue for elderly people — at Christmas and all year round. “I know our residents are looking forward to welcoming some new faces to the table on Christmas Day.”

The new owner of Havilands Tea Room, in Meer Street, Stratford town centre, are opening their doors to the homeless on Christmas Day serving a three-course lunch.

Ali Akbas and has organised his first Stratford-based Christmas Day event just five weeks after taking over the business.

Ali said: “I do this every year on Christmas Day. For nine years I did it in London with the company I worked at. Anyone is welcome to Havilands on Christmas Day, and I have organised two sittings.”

He can cater for 40 people on Christmas Day — 20 in the first sitting from 1pm until 3pm, and 20 in the second sitting from 3pm until 5pm.

Ali has also received lots of offers of help on the day, from volunteers in the town. Ali and the volunteers will arrive at around 11am to start preparing the food, and they will eat their Christmas dinner ahead of the first sitting.

He plans to serve soup as a starter, a choice of a turkey dinner or vegetarian moussaka for the main course, followed by mince pies with double cream for dessert.

At 6pm, each day, Ali also has plans to give away any unsold food to homeless people, in a food pack.

The owner explained: “Everything is fresh on the day and rather than waste it, I want to put it in a pack for the homeless.”



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