By Aleksandra Bliszczyk
Less than three months out from Christmas, Love in Action Wallan has put the wheels in motion for a Christmas Day dinner event, pending COVID-19 restrictions, to give those feeling isolated something to look forward to.
Volunteers Paul Dwyer and Sarah Brewer say the idea is nine months in the making, and will be the first event of its kind the community food-relief organisation, which runs annual Christmas hamper drives, has put on.
“One of the things we noticed last year was when we would take out the food, hampers and presents, some of the responses coming back were, ‘oh my god this is amazing, but what I’d really love is just to be able to spend Christmas Day with someone’,” Ms Brewer said.
The free event will run from 4pm to 8pm on Christmas Day at the Wallan Football Oval, with a fully catered meal; children’s entertainment including a magician, craft activities and a visit from Santa; local musicians; and a big game of backyard cricket. It will be alcohol free.
Organisers expect between 150 and 200 attendees if restrictions allow, but say the event will be open to anyone and everyone.
“It could be your elderly neighbour, it could be the couple across the road who may not have kids or anyone else to spend it with,” Ms Brewer said.
“It could be that they’ve had a really bad year, or need some extra TLC, or that they want to make it really special for their kids and are not sure how to do that.”
Registrations are essential, but Ms Brewer said no one would be turned away.
Love in Action secured a grant from Bendigo Bank Wallan for the day, but as a free event run by volunteers, also encouraged support from local businesses who could offer goods or services at a reduced rate.
“It’s empowering the community to look after the community,” Mr Dwyer said.
“We’re not a registered charity, we’re not reliant on corporate donates, it’s more about the community helping the community.”
After a long year of lockdowns, Ms Brewer said this event was all about fostering community connection. She said she hoped it provided an opportunity for community members to meet new people and have meaningful conversations while sharing feelings with someone who may be able to share a new perspective.
People who have already registered have told Ms Brewer that this was the first time in a long time they had something to look forward to at Christmas.
“That’s why we wanted to get it now so for people who dread Christmas every year they can start to enjoy it.”