A SPECIAL Christmas lunch is being organised to help those who are not able to be with their loved ones for festivities.

A group of volunteers are hosting a lunch free of charge at the Witham United Reformed Church on Christmas Day.

The scheme was launched three years ago to help those who are not able to spend the day with friends or family.

They could be isolated due to mobility issues or they may live too far away from family.

Organiser Karen Coy said it was a great way to get the community together.

She said: “When my mum passed away I thought she had been lucky with having her family around all those years, but not everyone had been so lucky.

“We volunteered with the Salvation army in Colchester for their Christmas Lunch but realised there was nothing like it in Witham.”

Last year the volunteers supplied 100 people aged between two and 92 with a Christmas lunch and a present.

A dozen tables are hosted by volunteers who give up their time to spend some of their Christmas with those who otherwise might spend it alone.

A Christmas lunch with all the trimmings is followed by a visit from Father Christmas with gifts for everyone.

Guests will then sit down to listen to the Queen’s Speech while enjoying teas and coffees.

Karen said the dinner was not just for elderly residents, and the event saw a wide range of guests last year.

She said: “You don’t have to be old to be lonely and on your own, we served single mums and their children as well as elderly people last year.

“Children were interacting with the more elderly members of the community.

“We were bowled over with the response from the community, not just from people who came but from the donations and sponsors.

“It was absolutely wonderful to see so we thought we would do it again.” Volunteer Tina Townsend said she was more than happy to offer her support again this year.

She said: “The aim is to reduce the amount of people who spend Christmas Day alone because they don’t have families or aren’t able to get to them for the day.

“Most of the ingredients and presents are provided by local business or financial donations so we need everyone’s help.”

Tina, who is also chair of the Witham Community Hub, said: “The hub is supplying the containers for the soup for starters, everyone there will get a three-course meal.”

This year the food is being supplied by the White Hart in Witham and their chefs.

The Campaign to End Loneliness suggests being lonely can lead to a number of problems.

It says lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is actually worse for us than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity.