Volunteers start getting ready for Open Christmas event

Phil and Trish Abbott

Phil and Trish Abbott - Credit: Archant

Christmas Day will be a busy one for community bus driver Phil Abbott – as he gets behind the wheel to help a festive charity event.

He and wife Trish will transport and accompany people attending Great Yarmouth’s Open Christmas event which provides food, entertainment and gifts for 300 people at the town’s seafront Marina Centre.

The Reedham couple are among the army of 100 volunteers who, along with community and business donations, make the day happen.

Mr Abbott is a bus driver at Centre 81, which has donated the bus and fuel for the day as its contribution to an event which ensures the lonely and people struggling financially have a fun Christmas day.

“You can spend the day eating too much, drinking too much and complaining about what is on the telly,” said Mr Abbott. “We love doing this, helping people and spending time with them on the day.”

Mr Abbott, 65, is a retired computer consultant who ran his own business in Yorkshire, before he and Trish moved to Norfolk nearly five years ago.

He started as a volunteer driver at Centre 81 before joining the charity’s community transport driver team. It sees him doing morning and afternoon routes for its skills and activities sessions, or people on medical and shopping trips.

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Getting involved with the Open Christmas event was a natural follow on from being involved with the caring ethos Centre 81, he added.

And Mrs Abbott also used to be involved with helping the homeless in Norwich.

Centre 81 chief executive Diana Staines said: “We are closed on Christmas Day but we support the efforts of volunteers like Phil helping events like the Open Christmas event – and are happy to donate a bus and some fuel as our contribution.”

The Open Christmas event runs from 11am to 5pm, is open to all-comers and provides free transport. It has been running since 1999 when it was started by Mike and Rosie Hope. It is now run by a handful of organisers headed by David and Isobel Minister.

Mr Minister said: “We are very grateful to people like Phil and Trish because this event could not happen without them.”

Organisers are always keen to recruit more volunteers, as well as receive cash and donations to run the day which costs £3000.

Donations of Christmas crackers, mince pies, Christmas cakes, tins of food, toiletries and warm clothing, clean sleeping bags and towels in reasonable condition are welcome.

For more information an d contacts visit the Open Christmas website http://www.openchristmasgreatyarmouth.org, call 01493 733153 / 07711 451020 or email openchristmas.greatyarmouth@yahoo.co.uk