Sarah Bays, director of new and refurbished office furniture retailer Century Office, and friend Sue Over, armed with a handful of volunteers, have been delivering Christmas day meals to the elderly and immobile since 2013.
Sarah explains: "The majority of us are fortunate enough to have family and friends around us for Christmas, whilst some are not. It is meant to be a day of celebrations and rejoicing but also giving. Each year Sue and I have prepared 14 meals and advertise for volunteers to deliver meals & small hampers with essential & luxury items to carry the guest through the Christmas holiday. Over the last couple of years our volunteers have taken great pleasure in delivering meals. Guests are always delighted & I think it is true to say our volunteers get as much from being a part of it as our guests! Donations of money or produce for meals and small hampers are received through the local businesses.
This year Sue and Sarah were unable to cook meals due to family and business commitments. Not wanting their guests to be left out, Sarah advertised locally for someone to take over the cooking and co-ordination of meals for 2015 but had no response for a co-ordinator. She then reached out to the local community, through social media, by calling for more volunteers in Tiptree but still had no offers for a co-ordinator who would pull the team together. However, she was inundated with offers to help and it was suggested that perhaps volunteers could each cook just one extra meal as part of their Christmas day preparations and deliver to a guest in their local area.
With so many offers of help, and what seems like a very simple way of reaching out at Christmas, Sarah asked her staff for their support. “The run up to Christmas is a very busy time for us and I had made the decision not to organise the Christmas Day meals this year so as not to over-burden our own staff whilst I was otherwise preoccupied. However, the responses from Facebook were so overwhelming and included requests from others outside of our own area to help them organise this for their local residents, that I felt there was a real opportunity to roll this out to other villages.
"So I discussed the matter with my team and asked if they were happy to offer their support and they not only agreed to that, but also offered their help!”
Tracy Ellis, who will be volunteering a Christmas meal this year, adds: “It's sad to think of people being on their own at Christmas let alone not having a Christmas dinner to enjoy. When I saw Sarah's post on Facebook asking for volunteers to help coordinate in our local area I immediately felt compelled to offer my help. It's a wonderful offer of kindness on her part and the thought of putting a smile on a lonely persons face on Christmas Day would be the best present ever.”