Volunteers giving up their Christmas Day

What does Christmas mean to you?

Friday, 23rd December 2016, 12:34 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 3:02 pm
Mandy Henderson is giving up her Christmas Day to help others.

For some, it is about opening presents next to the tree, sitting around the table and gobbling down turkey, stuffing and potatoes until your belt buckles, reading bad jokes from cheap crackers, and falling asleep while the Queen gives her speech.

It’s a time for sharing.

It’s a time of coming together.

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That could not be further from the truth for others.

For some, Christmas is one of the loneliest times of the year, one of isolation.

Research conducted by Age Scotland highlighted that 54,000 Scots aged 60 or over will spend Christmas alone. A further 65,000 admitted that they felt lonelier at this time of year.

There are no presents and no dinners – no Christmas experience.

It is for this reason that volunteers from across Fife will give up their Christmas Day to help those who are alone and isolated.

The Linton Lane Centre will be opening its doors to provide dinner on Christmas Day for the first time.

Volunteers at the centre will be helping prepare and serve a three–course traditional Christmas dinner for the people who attend, offering not just a meal but friendship during the festive period.

Mandy Henderson, manager at the Linton Lane Centre, will be volunteering her time to help prepare the food and welcome visitors.

She said the idea came up after realising no other organisation in Kirkcaldy would be running one.

“We knew the Salvation Army did it last year,” she said. “We have the foodbank here – so it just came from that.

“We thought let’s open up and see if there’s a need in the area.

“Let’s see if anyone would like to spend Christmas Day with other people in their community.”

Mandy believes that it is important to make sure that the most vulnerable and isolated are not left alone at this time of year and can enjoy Christmas like everyone else.

She said: “Maybe they don’t have anyone at Christmas or don’t have the income to be able to afford a Christmas dinner. This is somewhere they can come.

“Loneliness is the big one. If you think you’re alone you imagine everyone else is sat around a table of ten – and that’s just not the case.

“These days people don’t always live near their families or know their neighbours.”

Around 16 locals have already committed to give up their time on Christmas Day to provide their services. Mandy admits that she has been surprised at number of people who have come forward to volunteer.

“I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of people coming down to the centre to ask if they can volunteer.

“Some of them want to give up their time because they themselves will be alone at Christmas, while others just want to give up their time to help other people.

“Because of all the work we do people hold Linton Lane Centre in their hearts. Hopefully I can open the door and provide some warmth and friendship. It’s a really good cause.

“It’s a chance for us to put out the hand of friendship to the community and see if it’s needed.”

Mandy is just one of many volunteers who will volunteer on Christmas Day.

Mary Parry (66) has volunteered her Christmas Day for the past four years to share the experience with people in the Levenmouth area.

The Scoonie Sunshine Club will host a dinner on December 25, inviting locals in the area who feel alone and isolated.

Mary explained the reason she started organising the dinners.

“It’s not just about being lonely - it’s about sharing,” she said. “Christmas is supposed to be about sharing.

“If you look at TV and at the adverts everyone is having a great time. That’s not the case for everyone.

“One woman we work with was making soup a couple of days before Christmas and warming it up on the day. To me, that is heart-breaking.”

The Scoonie Sunshine Club already organise meals throughout the year to bring people together, and Mary explained that providing Christmas dinners was the next step.

She said: “Imagine you were housebound and someone took you out 51 weeks of the year, and all of a sudden at Christmas you got nothing. Imagine how it would feel to be in that situation.

“People can come to our dinner, have some food and a bit of company – it’s better than being on their own.”

Mary hopes that more people are inspired to volunteer and give up their time to help others.

She said: “If more people would volunteer, there would be less loneliness. Isolation and loneliness cause so many problems. If someone just feels part of something, it can help them.”