Middlesbrough Corp’s Christmas meal provides fun for 80
published on 22 Dec 2023
Middlesbrough Salvation Army spread comfort and joy this festive season by hosting a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings for 79 people who attend its weekly drop-in.
In the week leading up to Christmas Day, the church and charity in Southfield Road served a free sit down meal with a turkey dinner and mince pies, Christmas music and conversation to help tackle isolation in the community.
Boosted by a visit from ‘Santa-paws’, Corps officer Captain Naomi Kelly's therapy dog Brengle, who is a regular visitor to the Salvation Army, each guest also got a gift of chocolates, toiletries and a warm accessory such as hats, scarves or gloves.
Captain Naomi Kelly, who leads The Salvation Army with her husband Captain Chris, said their drop-in, which runs every Tuesday morning and serves hot meals, food items to take home and links vulnerable and people who are homeless up with agencies to help them access housing, healthcare and job support, has been busier than ever in recent weeks.
Captain Naomi said: “Our drop-in has seen an increase in numbers in the past few weeks so we expected a big turn out for the Christmas meal. Last year we served about 40, but this year we had 79 people come, which shows the increase in need we are seeing in Middlesbrough.
“It’s about the company for people, sitting down with someone at a table and enjoying good food and a chat. For people who are on the streets or are living on their own they may not have that Christmas Day experience otherwise.
“It was a great day with a fun atmosphere – lots of Christmas music, Christmas jumpers and a lot of laughter as always. We do our best to create a ‘normal’ atmosphere for people where they can truly relax and perhaps escape their worries for a while.”
It’s down to an army of volunteers to make the meal ‘snow much fun’ including Carol, 70, who aims to make the day special for people who often feel ignored or invisible.
Carol said: “Some of the guests have not had a proper Christmas or they might not be welcome at their own homes. They tell us that they haven’t had a Christmas dinner in such a long time or they’ve never been somewhere with this kind of atmosphere. Some of them say ‘I wish you were my mam’ and things like that and it’s heartbreaking. There’s not many places to go to help them out of the situation they are in, so I know they are grateful for the support of The Salvation Army.
“I had my dinner there as well, we all sit together and chat to the guests and they love it, and so do I. I love to come and help, it gives me purpose to know you’re making someone feel a little bit better for that time. To volunteer gives me something as well as I feel like I’m giving something back to the community.”
It is the busiest time of the year for The Salvation Army with Middlesbrough Salvation Army distributing Christmas gifts to more than 800 vulnerable children as part of their Christmas Present Appeal which ensures children have a gift to open on Christmas Day. They have also hosted a Christmas fayre and been out and about in the town with The Sally Army choir singing Christmas carols.
For more information search for Middlesbrough Salvation Army on Facebook.