Volunteers rally to ensure fewer feel lonely over festive period

THE FESTIVE period can be deeply lonely if you're on your own - but across the length and breadth of Yorkshire, kind-hearted people gave up their time this Christmas to help those who would otherwise be alone.

Marvina Newton, right, founder of the Leeds charity Angels of Youth chats to Dana Lockwood at the Corn Exchange on Christmas Eve. Picture Tony Johnson.

Organisers across the region have pledged to volunteer once again for Christmas 2018 after seeing the joy events brought to those who would otherwise have suffered the blight of loneliness.

Research released by Age UK earlier this month showed that almost one million older people felt lonelier at Christmas, with around 1.4m older people admitting that Christmas isn’t a special day for them and just passes them by.

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But in countless places across the region, volunteers embodied Christmas spirit to make sure people of all ages were able to enjoy the day.

More than 200 people of attended a party on Christmas Eve at the Corn Exchange in Leeds organised by city youth empowerment charity Angel of Youth.

Chief executive Marvina Newton was helped by dozens of young people over several weeks to pull together the event, after being moved when hearing about the extent of loneliness when she took part in the Leeds Great Get Together, which was held in memory of murdered Batley MP Jo Cox in June.

Ms Newton said: “We knew people would come, but we didn’t expect so many. What was amazing that there was no discrimination - they were young and old, white, black and Asian - loneliness can effect anyone.”

She now hopes to start a conversation group and hold other events on holidays throughout the year.

Elsewhere in Leeds, young care leavers who would have otherwise spent the day alone, in a hostel, bedsit or sofa surfing without family around, were given a Christmas to remember thanks to volunteers from the Lemn Sissay Foundation. Organiser Miz DeShannon said: “Some of the guests were visibly blown away by the fact that such effort had been made for them, we had tears and hugs and lots of laughs as well.”

At the Plough Inn at Wigglesworth near Skipton, 15 older people came together for a free lunch.

Manager Gemma Fish was moved to do something after realising how many older people had no visitors when she visited her own mother-in-law in hospital.

She said: “By the end of the lunch, everyone was chatting together and friendships had been formed - a couple even discovered they lived around the corner from each other.”

Charity The Well Project in Normanton, near Wakefield, hosted more than 60 older people for lunch, with support from many local businesses, churches and the local town council, for the second year running.

Organiser Rev Phil Maries said: “This year, we extended to couples as well, as many may have family, but live far away, and have no way of getting to them and don’t want to be a burden, so end up staying at home and not bothering about Christmas at all.

“We had a really lovely day and everybody left with a gift.”

Other events around the region included a Christmas Day lunch at Ilkley Baptist Church and live music, games, and mince pies at Burley Library. Many events also took place in the run up to Christmas, including lunches at The Arabian Horse pub in Aberford, The Knox in Harrogate, The Newcastle Packet in Scarborough and The Coach and Horses in Tadcaster.

The Yorkshire Post has been campaigning to highlight oneliness since 2014. Visit www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/loneliness.