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Volunteer to help make Christmas merrier for the homeless and lonely

By This is Exeter  |  Posted: December 20, 2008

Andrew Aggett is ready to help out with preparing Christmas dinner at the Salvation Army centre EE151208_GW02_05

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WHEN you're tucking into your Christmas dinner this year surrounded by your loved ones, spare a thought for those who might not be as lucky as you.

For different reasons, many people — young and old — do not have anyone to spend Christmas with.

That is why, every year, the Salvation Army turns its community hall into a dinning hall draped with all the festive trimmings, so that some people won't be alone for Christmas.

The only reason the organisation can do this is because every year volunteers give up their Christmas Day to help others enjoy theirs.

For the last four years Andrew Aggett, from Exwick, Exeter, has tried something new by shouldering the responsibility of being the Christmas Day head chef.

He's made sure that up to 85 people are served with a delicious Christmas dinner.

With the help of a team of volunteers, including his wife Moira, he has always delivered and only been late in dishing up by five minutes, and that was only once.

This year he is handing over the job to someone else, but he will still be doing his bit to help out.

The 50-year-old self-employed gardener, said: "My father is ill this year so I will be spending Christmas Day with him.

"But I'll be helping prepare the Salvation Army dinner as we do all the tables and the vegetables the day before so all we have to do on the day is cooking and serving.

"I arrive at 9am and usually the other volunteers come from 10.30am. People start arriving at 12 then dinner is served at 1pm. We all sit down together so everyone enjoys it.

"Last year I cooked for 85 people. If you can cook for four you can cook for 85. It's just numbers!

"It's good fun. You get to meet people of all ages — it's like a proper family Christmas.

"We get older people, single people, couples without children, people with children, homeless — the whole spectrum of life."

The dinners usually have between 12 to 16 volunteers in all, but they get to enjoy Christmas Day too because it's as much for the volunteers as for the people who come to be served. For the last 24 years, Major Glad Ljungholm has enjoyed every Christmas day and each one has been spent in a Salvation Army capacity.

Being a minister, her day of goodwill starts at 9am, visiting people in hospital then heading to the community centre and helping out where needed.

Major Glad, 45, from St Thomas, Exeter, said: "I usually find myself talking to people as much as anything else. It's important to get people talking to each other. Then it's just a case of mucking in and helping out.

"I usually make Boxing Day Christmas Day at home. This year is my first being married so we will try and have some kind of Christmas on Christmas Eve, although my husband will be coming with me on Christmas Day.

"It's really just a happy day and a lovely occasion."

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  • Profile image for This is Exeter
    karen, derby  |  December 23 2009, 1:01PM

    i would like to help serve lunch on christmass day

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    melanie, dudley  |  December 14 2009, 4:37PM

    I live inbetween Dudley and Wolverhampton, I would like to volunteer to cook. I am not homeless but I do not have family to celebrate with so I would like to help with this community service. Who do I contact?

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    noeline oldham, plymouth  |  December 10 2009, 3:01PM

    I wouldlike to help prepare christmas dinner for the homeless in the plymouth area this christmas 2009

    |   -1
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    Vikki McCarthy, Brighton  |  December 09 2009, 9:22AM

    I would like to help prepare a christmas lunch in the brighton area

  • Profile image for This is Exeter
    Malcolm Watkins, Torbay  |  December 06 2009, 7:02PM

    I would like to help in the Plymouth to Exeter area

  • Profile image for This is Exeter
    James, Exeter  |  December 01 2009, 9:28AM

    I would lik to volunteer to help on Christmas day but am having trouble finding opportunities. Does anyone have any suggestions please? Thanks

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    Helen, Potters Bar  |  November 25 2009, 5:10PM

    I would love to be able to volunteer this christmas somewhere in hertfordshire or north london

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    Rob Macormac, Tavistock/Plymouth  |  November 15 2009, 10:52AM

    Would like to volunteer help this Christmas anywhere near Plymouth/Tavistock

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    Mrs H Ford, Nr Chepstow  |  November 04 2009, 7:31PM

    Would like to volunteer help this Christmas anywhere near Chepstow. Perhaps Bristol