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More room at the in-home inn

Room at the Inn volunteers: pastors Pete and Deb Hampson, Emily Hooper, and Holly Rees. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO

Christmas catering for the entire community

This year, more than 450 of Masterton’s most vulnerable were catered for in their own homes as an iconic Christmas lunch transformed.

The annual Room at the Inn collective Christmas lunch organised by Masterton Community Church pastors Pete and Deb Hampson was by in-home delivery due to covid.

The Hampsons were disappointed the new traffic light regulations had made it too difficult for the traditional community lunch, which normally fed more than 200 people. However, they would be able to cater for more than double that number under the new format.

Church members spent most of the past week putting together more than one hundred bespoke Christmas hampers expected to feed about 460 people, including many single people and children.

Everything for a good celebration was in the boxes, ready to eat.

“There’s chippies, sparkling grape juice, lollies, Christmas pies, biscuits, and a lot of goodies like that,” Pete Hampson said.

“There will also be a whole lot of other food like sliced ham, coleslaw, and salads.”

Hampers included desserts like chocolate mousse, meringues, and fresh strawberries.

“It’s the best because they deserve it,” Deb Hampson said.

“Everything’s in there to make it a special meal for families who can just open it up and have a feast,” Pete said.

The Hampsons had the idea when they realised they couldn’t have a sit-down meal. The large indoor event would have meant the unvaccinated were excluded and posed other challenges.

“We were gutted; we’ve been doing it for 19 years,” he said.

“We thought we had to do something for the community. There are all these people that come year after year, including families.

“The idea of ‘Room at the Inn’ isn’t so much feeding the needy; the theme has always been don’t spend Christmas day alone. It’s been a place to gather.”

Deb said that people had always been able to walk in off the street for the gathering in previous years.

“Room at the Inn has meant there was always room; the door is never shut.”

Pete said that the transformation this year provided a way for people to continue to enjoy the day.

“It’s the next best thing.”

Recipients of the hampers were people on the church’s contact list and referrals from other agencies.

“We got in touch with schools, the police, and other social agencies asking them if they could give us the names of those who were needing encouragement on Christmas Day,” Pete said.

Some got the hampers as a gift. Volunteers delivered the boxes yesterday; others had been asked to drop in to collect a surprise ‘something’.

“There’s a lot of people alone in this community.

“There are people with mental health issues, and we also have a lot of big families who come with their kids because they can’t afford to do something special.”

The food had all been donated by New World.

“New World has been amazing; they have been incredibly generous to us.”

The Hampsons were optimistic about a future after covid.

“Something good will come out of this,” Pete said.

“I think the pandemic is going to change a lot of people’s outlook on life, and it’s going to make people appreciate a lot more things. A crisis is a great innovator.”

After the hampers were delivered, the couple would spend their Christmas Day at home with family.

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