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“It’s what Christmas is all about” - hundreds attend Open Christmas in Great Yarmouth

PUBLISHED: 20:00 25 December 2017 | UPDATED: 20:00 25 December 2017

Open Christmas Great Yarmouth. Photo: James Carr.

Open Christmas Great Yarmouth. Photo: James Carr.

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A large team of selfless volunteers helped to ensure almost 400 vulnerable people enjoyed a warm meal and company this Christmas.

Open Christmas Great Yarmouth 2017. Photo: James Carr. Open Christmas Great Yarmouth 2017. Photo: James Carr.

Great Yarmouth’s annual Open Christmas lunch returned to the Marina Centre on the Golden Mile today.

The event, now in its 21st year, is held for those who are on their own, homeless or struggling to make ends meet.

Mick Rudy at Open Christmas Great Yarmouth 2017. Photo: James Carr. Mick Rudy at Open Christmas Great Yarmouth 2017. Photo: James Carr.

Along with a free hot meal, guests enjoyed live music, a goodie-bag of food, bingo, raffle and a free jumble sale.

Mick Rudy, 49, was attending the event for the first time.

Open Christmas Great Yarmouth. Photo: James Carr. Open Christmas Great Yarmouth. Photo: James Carr.

He said: “I’ve been homeless on and off since I was 17. I suffer from bipolar disorder and don’t always feel like coming out.

“Last Christmas I was quite sad as I spent it alone. Today has been great: the food and volunteers are lovely. It’s just nice to see the community helping out the homeless.

Thomas Price at Open Christmas Great Yarmouth. Photo: James Carr. Thomas Price at Open Christmas Great Yarmouth. Photo: James Carr.

He added: “I will definitely be coming next year.”

This year’s event was also a first for 66-year-old Thomas Price.

The Gritten family at Open Christmas Great Yarmouth. Photo: James Carr. The Gritten family at Open Christmas Great Yarmouth. Photo: James Carr.

Mr Price praised the meal, company and “kind” volunteers who helped him on the day.

He said: “It was my next door neighbour who told me about it.

“I’ve really enjoyed myself. Otherwise I would have been alone this Christmas - this really helps the old.”

The event is funded entirely by donations from local businesses and individuals and has fed more than 6,000 people in need over its history.

David Minister, one of the organisers, explained how Open Christmas can be helpful for both guests and volunteers.

He said: “Just by looking at all the people around the room you can see why today is important.

“There are so many people alone at Christmas - it’s not just the homeless, a lot of volunteers would otherwise be alone.

“There is a brilliant atmosphere here today, some people are seeing friends they haven’t seen in years.”

Volunteer Felicity Gritten , 61, has been a long-standing supporter of the event, along with the rest of her family.

“We love it”, she said. “It is just lovely to be meeting all these people.

“It’s what Christmas is all about.”

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