Cessnock Christian Christmas Lunch cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions

LARGE GATHERING: Wesley Hall set up for the Cessnock Christmas Christian Day Luncheon in 2016. The volunteer-run event has served free Christmas lunch for up to 170 people in previous years.
LARGE GATHERING: Wesley Hall set up for the Cessnock Christmas Christian Day Luncheon in 2016. The volunteer-run event has served free Christmas lunch for up to 170 people in previous years.

Organisers of the Cessnock Christian Christmas Day Luncheon are praying for a Christmas miracle.

The committee has made the heartbreaking decision to cancel the 2020 event, unless a new venue capable of seating 120 people within COVID-safe guidelines emerges within the next two weeks.

The volunteer-run event has provided free Christmas lunch for homeless, disadvantaged and isolated people since 2001.

It has grown from serving 20 people in the first year, to providing 170 meals (including takeaways) in 2019 - offering people who otherwise might be alone the chance to enjoy a meal, entertainment and company on Christmas Day.

Organising committee member Helen Dyball said COVID-safe social distancing requirements would make it "near impossible" to hold the event at its usual venue, the Wesley Hall.

Mrs Dyball said the committee was also concerned about taking people's details for contact tracing purposes, as they have never asked this of their guests in the past due to privacy reasons.

"We are really broken-hearted that we can't do it," Mrs Dyball said.

"But it would be near impossible - unless we can come up with a venue that can seat 120 people, socially-distanced, and also up to 40 volunteers in the kitchen."

Mrs Dyball said the committee was open to suggestions for a new venue, but would prefer an indoor space to keep people out of the weather, as a lot of the guests are elderly or vulnerable.

"If someone comes up with an alternative option, we would willing to have a look," she said.

"But if not, we've got our fingers crossed for next year - we'll be full speed ahead."

Anyone who can help is urged to contact the committee by Friday, December 4, in order to allow enough time to secure meals, food safety requirements, donations and volunteers.

If you can help, call or text 0419 275 450 or email robertjdyball@outlook.com.

HAPPIER TIME: Cessnock Christian Christmas Luncheon volunteers Carol Weldon, Helen Dyball, Debbie Barry and Robert Dyball preparing for last year's lunch.

HAPPIER TIME: Cessnock Christian Christmas Luncheon volunteers Carol Weldon, Helen Dyball, Debbie Barry and Robert Dyball preparing for last year's lunch.

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