PEOPLE who may have spent Christmas alone, were able to join others thanks to groups of volunteers.

Christmas lunches were held at the Victoria Centre in Lydney and at Cinderford Methodist Church.

Chris Brown, manager of the Forest Voluntary Action Forum, which hosted the lunch in Cinderford, said: “Nobody should feel alone at Christmas. That was the view of Forest Voluntary Action Forum (FVAF) when we launched our free community Christmas lunch for the second year running this Christmas Day at Cinderford Methodist Church.

“Over 100 people from a wide array of backgrounds came together to enjoy food, games, music and most importantly good company in what must have been the biggest Christmas lunch in the Forest of Dean.

The idea for the event, which was organised by Forest Voluntary Action Forum, the Volunteer Centre and Voluntary Service Council for the Forest of Dean, first came about when the organisation noticed a significant increase in people in Cinderford and surrounding areas suffering from loneliness and isolation.

“Contributing factors include a rise in homelessness, physical and mental ill health, and the effects of younger generations leaving the area.”

Elaine Quirk and the team of staff and volunteers from Café 31 in the town catered for the event and more than 50 people stepped up to help with the day. Donations of gifts and money came in from locals throughout the distriact.

Chris added: “Thanks to the enormous local support, it was possible to ensure every person that attended was well fed and had a Christmas hamper to take home with them.

“One enthusiastic volunteer even dressed up as Father Christmas and distributed chocolates throughout the day.”

“Nothing makes you appreciate Christmas more than seeing groups of caring people come together to ensure everyone is able to have a fantastic Christmas Day.

A good community leaves no-one behind and we showed that in the Forest we’re blessed with a fantastic one.

We can’t wait to do it all again next year.”

The Victoria Centre in Lydney runs regular lunches for older people in the town throughout the year and held a Christmas Day get-together for the fifth year in succession.

The traditional turkey roast was prepared by by Marian and Ozzie Baggus and Sue and Rod Barnes-Gould, cooked by Richard Kelsey, Ruth Fletcher and the Globe Hotel chefs and served by Hilary Chalk, Trish Clarkson, Jean and Rob Fitzgerald, and Wendy Hill.

Many of the guests were chauffeured to the centre by Amelia and Luke Andrew, Derek Biddle and Rod Barnes Gould.

The ingredients and drinks were donated and there was also entertainment provided.

Pearl Biddle, who was one of the volunteers, said the lunch highlighted the generosity of people in Lydney.

She added: “It was a truly humbling and inspiring occasion.”