There is no reason for anyone to be lonely or go hungry at Christmas in Rotorua.
Once again, volunteers are busy collecting and preparing food for a community Christmas day luncheon being hosted at St John's Presbyterian Church.
Last year, Rotorua churches combined to host the luncheon at the Fenton Park Bible Church with more than 240 people taking in the luncheon and 50 volunteers helping out on the day, says Harvest Church pastor Dave Moore.
"We were inundated ... it was awesome,'' he says.
This year St John's Presbyterian Church on Ranolf St is hosting the luncheon starting at midday. Co-ordinator Catherine Gettins says the lunch, which is a highlight of the year for many people who struggle to provide a decent meal for their family most days of the week or those who may otherwise be alone, will provide the true spirit of Christmas as well as a lovely meal for those attending. New migrants, students, tourists _ anyone is welcome to attend.
"It's going to be an amazing menu. People can sit around and talk with each other. There is always a real family
atmosphere ... there is a real joy in sharing Christmas.''
Many people are finding it hard these days, Catherine says.
"For some people, it is a real struggle for them to provide a meal let alone a Christmas lunch. Many people are lonely and just want company. This is an opportunity to share the spirit of Christmas and a meal together ... we welcome everyone with open arms. We cater for everybody, from tourists to the carnival people. It's a real community thing.''
Gluten-free or vegetarian _ not an issue.
However, they need food to cook, gifts to give away and more helpers to prepare the food and entertain the multitudes on the day, Catherine says.
People are also needed to help set up the tables on the day.
"It's always a lot of fun. We need people to help us set up on the day, serve the people and help clean up afterwards,'' she says.
They also need drivers to give of their time to pick up and take people home afterwards on Christmas day.
If anyone can help prepare food and vegetables on Sunday December 23, just turn up with your vegetable peeler and a smile at St John's Church on Ranolf St at 2pm.
Catherine says they have been calling on businesses to help but still need lots of things like chicken drum sticks,
pumpkin, frozen vegetables, potatoes, kumara, ice cream, jellies, cream, stuffing ingredients, Christmas cakes,
fruit tarts, tinned fruit and takeaway containers.
Presents for children aged 1 to 16 are also needed along with jumbo chalk, face paints, balloons and cellotape.
People are needed to help entertain the children as well.
"We want to reach as many people as we can. This is an opportunity to share a Christmas meal and feel loved. We don't want anyone excluded,'' she says. "We've had an amazing response in Rotorua. We know it's tough
economic times out there at the moment.''
Meanwhile, Catherine feels blessed every Christmas lunch she helps organise.
"I feel so humbled and impressed with God and how people respond to him. It's so good when everyone works
together to do something for people in need.''
Everyone who attends leaves with an ice cream cone, a Christmas card and a take home meal.
Rosemary and lemon chicken
Roasted potato, kumara and pumpkin
Peas, carrots, corn, buns and stuffing
Steamed pudding and custard
Pavlova, cream and fresh berries
Fruit salad and jelly
Christmas cake Shortbread
Fruit mince pies
If you have any donations of food, want to volunteer to help prepare the menu or drive on the day please call Catherine on (07) 349 2460 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you wish to donate money please bank into the Rotorua Ministers Association BNZ bank account number: 11 6100 0017915 11.
If you want to register for the luncheon also use the same contact details.