The annual community lunches held in Masterton and Carterton yesterday provided some very welcome Christmas cheer and company for residents who might otherwise have been celebrating the holiday alone.
There was more ‘Room at the Inn’ than anticipated at the Masterton event held in the Trust House Recreation Centre, the Times-Age was told by Pastor Pete Hampson of the Masterton Community Church [MCC], which has been putting on the free Christmas get together and slap-up festive feed for the past 22 years.
“It’s probably the smallest turnout we’ve ever had – around 170 or so, when in the past we’ve had as many as 250,” Hampson said. “It surprises me a bit, given the high cost of the food at the moment.
“So we’re going to have a lot of leftovers, but nothing goes to waste. We’re making up meals that will be offered to all the attendees to take home, and then what’s left will be taken to the homeless shelter and distributed throughout the community.”
Hampson was full of praise for all the event’s “phenomenal” helpers, especially “a lovely mum and daughter” who magically materialised on Christmas Eve to ensure the kitchen was able to operate smoothly in the absence of a chef.
MCC had suffered a pre-Christmas setback when the church was broken into on Friday night and had much of its camera gear, sound equipment, and laptops stolen, although Hampson was happy to report that the vast majority of the goods had already been returned, “thanks to a couple of guys who bought it seeing the MCC labels on it all, getting in touch with Pastor Jermaine [Allen], and returning it”.
The timely return of the gear meant there was a sound system available for the event’s entertainers, including brother and sister act Keepa and Sophronia Smith, who had the happy crowd tapping their feet and singing along to a rousing rendition of ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ when the Times-Age popped in.
“It’s such a great atmosphere,” Hampson beamed as he gestured around the room, “and it’s good to see a variety of people from across the community coming together here, relaxing, and enjoying themselves.”
Meanwhile, a slightly frazzled Sue Fleet wasn’t entirely sure just how many people were at the Carterton lunch in the town’s event centre, although she hazarded a guess there were around 130 or so enjoying the free food, fellowship, and music.
Fleet has been organising the event – which was started in 2000 by members of the St Marks Anglican Church – since she volunteered to make Christmas cakes in 2008 and “things just snowballed from there”.
“It’s a beautiful thing”, she said of the way everything needed for the Carterton lunch is donated [as is the case with the Masterton event], “and it’s wonderful to see all these happy people enjoying one another’s company.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Fleet smiled. “If I wasn’t here, it’d just be me and the dog – not that I mind being alone. But I’d much rather be doing this!”