A COMMUNITY worker from Stanford Le Hope has had an invitation go viral after asking the community to help him organise a Christmas dinner for people on their own.
Rob Groves has seen his invitation to Christmas Dinner be shared over 550 times and has now been flooded with offers from the community wanting to donate food, entertainment and even free lifts on Christmas day.
The invitation has also had people just volunteering their time to spend with those on their own at Christmas.
Rob said: “I had the idea of hosting a Christmas lunch for the community to show hospitality towards those who may be on their own.
“I made the suggestion on Facebook and have been inundated with donations, hundreds of pounds worth. It’s bonkers.”
Rob said he has previously hosted one lady who was on her own at Christmas and now wants to organise a day for everyone who feels lonely or hard to reach.
“I am planning for 30, but I’ve got enough for at least 45 people.
“The response has been phenomenal, it’s humbling.”
Strangers as well as local businesses have contacted Rob to donate all manner of food and services.
Local butchers Chops in Corringham have donated two turkey crowns and five kilos of stuffing.
There have also been donations of Christmas puddings, music and taxi services to and from the lunch.
Other butchers have also offered to donate all the meat for the meal for free.
“It shows how generous people can be” Rob said, “The key now is to invite the lonely, the lonelier you are the harder it is to communicate.
“It is not just the elderly; it’s for all manner of people who may find themselves on their own. It’s not about age.”
Rob’s invitation comes as The Silver Line, a national phone line for the elderly, has released figures this week that suggest that Essex is the second most-lonely place in the country.
The Essex branch of the helpline received 32,674 phone calls in the last three years, and they experience a greater volume of calls from lonely people during the festive period.
Rob is now encouraging anyone to take an invitation to a neighbour or anyone that might benefit from the community Christmas day.
Rob said: “There is going to be a musician and board games, if we can sort a TV licence we may even watch the Queen’s speech. It will be a real Christmas day.
“I have enough food to feed the whole of Stanford Le Hope, it is great that people are this generous.”
Rob is hoping that through others those who are hard to reach will receive and invitation and will be able to celebrate Christmas together.
The Christmas lunch will be held at the Hardie Park Café on Hardie Road in Stanford. Anybody who would like to attend, or to donate, should ring Rob on 07803295374.
You can also download the invitation through the Stanford Le Hope community group on Facebook.
By Tom Bull