Retired licensee and helpers prepare for seasonal feast

FAR from putting her feet up and relaxing on Christmas Day, a retired licensee from West Yorkshire will be cooking a five-course Christmas lunch for nearly 100 pensioners.

Pam Clarkson, from Rothwell, and who used to run a pub in Carlton, volunteered to take on the task of making sure that vulnerable elderly people in the area got their share of festive cheer when she retired 11 years ago and the previous organiser was no longer able to organise the lunch.

When she started, there were 17 elderly or disabled people that were invited to the meal. The numbers have been steadily increasing over the years with a massive 108 guests in 2009, and this year there will be 93 diners.

The meal is cooked and served at Blackburn Hall, in Rothwell, which is made available for the day free of charge.

Pam, 71, an active member of the Rothwell District Lions, organises the event but has help from a team of volunteers who also give up time with their own families to help with transporting the guests from their homes to the venue and back again, serving the food and clearing up afterwards.

The guests are offered tea, coffee and biscuits when they arrive at Blackburn Hall on Christmas Day.

A local minister then delivers a short Christmas service while the finishing touches are made to the meal. Dinner is followed by Christmas carols played by the Rothwell Temperance Band. Gift bags containing chocolates and biscuits are handed out.

Pam also arranges for gift bags to be taken to the police officers and firefighters that work on Christmas day in the area as a thank you to them. As people leave the hall, they are handed a package containing a sandwich, sausage roll, cheese and Christmas cake to take home for their tea.

Pam said: "My Christmas helpers turn up year after year to help me make the day really special for the elderly people in Rothwell.

"They must have hearts as big as buckets to give up time with their own families to spread a bit of festive cheer, and I can't thank them enough for their help.

"People say to me that at my age I should give up catering for so many people at Christmas time, but I absolutely love doing it.

"It's like a Christmas present to myself and I hope to keep doing it for as long as I possibly can."