10th December 2014

Twinkling lights, a faux fireplace and a four-course meal awaited 60 senior citizens, who were joined by the Mayor of Dunstable, for a special Christmas lunch. Organised by the Woodfield Green and Downside Residents' Association and Dunstable Adventist Community church, the afternoon was held at the Dunstable Community Centre, on Sunday, 7 December.

Mayor of Dunstable"It's such an important time of year to try and break down the isolation that some senior people are experiencing, even in their own homes", said Clive Bates, treasurer of the Residents' Association. "I think anything we can do to break down the barriers, to bring people into a venue where they can sit down to good food, have a laugh and meet local councillors is something great."

As the ladies and gentlemen arrived they were greeted by waiters and waitresses from the Dunstable Adventist Community church. These cheerful volunteers seated them and took their menu orders.

Harp in the fireHarmony Chambers, a local resident, has been a member of the Dunstable Community church for three years now and believes events like this really impact lives.
"One of my first interactions with the community was through my kids who went to the community church, back when it was called 'Creative Church'", she explained. "What I love about these events that the church runs with other community leaders, is the way people get to meet someone new and, especially today, a chance for the older people to get out and enjoy themselves."

Harmony, whose children are now 15, 14 and 12, continues to be a part of the community church programmes and runs the senior club every Friday, at the Dunstable Community Centre. She spoke of how much she enjoys interacting with the senior citizens, whether acting as a taxi for them, visiting as a friend or being their waitress!

Performing arts groupEvery table expressed their enjoyment, not only of the delicious four-course meal, but also of the special entertainment throughout the afternoon. They were treated to soothing music from harpist Sujoya Bullock; lively songs by singer-guitarist Kirsty Young; and an enchanting performance from the centre's Performing Arts Club.

Christina, the director of the Performing Arts Club, holds regular workshops for children from the community, from 4 – 15 years. With help from Caitlin, who teaches several of the classes, they put together a production for the children to perform at the Christmas lunch.

"The children sparkled, they were a lovely addition to the programme", commented Tony Cootes, Chairman of the Residents' Association. "It's brilliant the way events like this cement relationships with various groups. The whole point of the day is to bring people together. We do the legwork in going out and inviting the senior citizens to come, we subsidise the tickets, but there really is no price on the importance of bringing the community together, especially at this time of year."

[Katie Allen]

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