Giving up their own Christmas to help those who are alone

Pam Clarkson from Lofthouse, near Wakefield, who cooks for  elderly people on Christmas Day.
Pam Clarkson from Lofthouse, near Wakefield, who cooks for elderly people on Christmas Day.
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WHILE PEOPLE across Yorkshire are battling with wrapping paper or indulging in a festive lie-in, Raychel McGuin and Pam Clarkson are part of an army of volunteers who will be up early on Christmas Day, preparing to make the day a little better for those who would otherwise spend the day alone.

Mrs Clarkson, 75, will single-handedly cook a five course Christmas Day lunch for 145 people at a community hall in Rothwell, Leeds, on Thursday.

She started cooking for older people, the disabled, or anyone who would be spending the day alone in 2000 and this year received a British Empire Medal in this year’s New Year’s Honours for her dedication.

“For some of them, it’s the only time they will get out of the house,” Mrs Clarkson, of Lofthouse in Wakefield, said. “I have a wonderful family and I would hate to think of being in that situation where I would spend the day alone.”

Earlier this month, The Yorkshire Post’s loneliness campaign reported on research by charity Friends of the Elderly, which showed that two out of three people want to do more to help the 500,000 older people who will spend Christmas Day alone, but don’t know how.

Mrs McGuin is one of those who does. She will be serving lunch to 13 lonely pensioners in Darton, Barnsley, after feeling compelled to do something to help those who are alone.

She said: “For me, it seems like the most difficult day of the year for people who are lonely. Even on the television, everybody is with their families, and you can’t go to the shops, or the post office, where you might interact with people. Hopefully this will make a big difference for people who would otherwise feel alone.”

Other events on Christmas Day can be found on the Community Christmas website, which helps older people find a local event where they can share a celebration. It is run in conjunction with the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS), which believes no older person should spend Christmas Day alone.

The RVS Meals On Wheels service, which delivers 2 million meals a year, will be in action on Christmas Day and its volunteers and employees will be helping out at events or visiting the older people the charity supports.

Paul Taylor, head of support and development for the east of England said: “It’s wonderful to hear that so many people are planning to provide food and companionship on Christmas Day to older people in the community.

“It means that in some cases at least there is no need for an older person to spend the day alone unless they want to so hopefully older people can look forward to the festivities rather than dreading the day.”

Housing and care charity The Abbeyfield Society will be offering free Christmas meals and accommodation to older people at its care homes across the country, including in Northalleton, Ripon and Ilkley.

It said it has received “a flood” of calls from troubled older people who dread the prospect of spending Christmas alone.

Chief executive Natasha Singarayer said: “It is incredibly sad that older people are already becoming distressed and worried about Christmas – a time that’s supposed to be about joy and happiness.”

To find an event near you visit www.communitychristmas.co.uk, or to take part in an Abbeyfield lunch, call on 01727 734 066 or email coping@abbeyfield.com.