Many of us were kicking our heels up on Christmas Day, some of us were putting our feet up and relaxing with family and friends, but for a band of seven dedicated volunteers, Christmas Day means taking care of those who may not have a place to go.

It means welcoming smiles and the offer of a meal, warming not only hearts, but the stomach and soul.

For the past eight years, Narrabri’s community organisation Shared Table has been serving meals on Christmas Day to the lonely and the disadvantaged.

President Cecile van Lill says that last month’s Christmas effort went very well.

It starts, however, well before Christmas Day.

“In December we handed out 100 pre-ordered hampers that we had packed for both single people and families.

“We had enough toys to make up gift bags for the families with children,” she said.

Food Bank in Sydney, an organisation which sources and supplies a pantry and hamper service to charities in need, is usually called upon to supply Christmas hampers.

However, last month there were none left when Mrs van Lill placed her usual Christmas order, so Shared Table volunteers resolved to make up their own hampers from scratch.

What ensued was a poultry farm from Coonabarabran, donating 100 boxes, and eight volunteers proceeded to pack the hampers over two days.

“It took huge organisation and effort to get together items for the hamper,” Mrs van Lill said.

“Our supermarkets very generously stepped up and helped us to fill our hampers,” she said.

“One of our volunteers was even able to collect lollies from chain stores in Tamworth.

“On Christmas Day we served 34 lunches, including six meals for Meals on Wheels. The lunch of cold meat and salad went down very well in a joyful atmosphere.

“The meal was rounded off with the most delicious pavlova and plum pudding, all donated by cooks in our community.

“A major corporation made four huge salads for us, as it does every year.

“Several health services in town donated Christmas decorations which contributed, along with the Christmas music, to the festive atmosphere.

“On Christmas Day we were taken aback by the number of people who offered their time and helped us to serve the lunch and to clean up afterwards.

“Our major sponsor for the Christmas activities was Inland Rail. Without them the Christmas celebrations would not have been possible.

“We want to thank everybody who made donations to Shared Table over the Christmas period”.

Shared Table, situated on the corner of Dewhurst and Balonne Streets, is currently closed during the school holidays, but it is always available for emergency hampers.

Food Bank in Sydney provides prepacked hampers for any emergency situations which may arise.

“We deal only with food, no cash is accepted for these hampers,” Mrs van Lill said.

“In case of such an emergency, people can contact Debbie Smith on 0402 654 867.

“Once school starts again, Shared Table will resume its usual weekly orders for hampers on Fridays.

“We also have a small food bank where people can buy extra items for discounted prices.

“We will be serving a lunch every Friday at the Presbyterian Church Hall, where all people are welcome.

“Over the years it has become a very pleasant few hours spent catching up with each other and enjoying each other’s company, volunteers and visitors alike”.

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