Preston Christmas heroes fighting loneliness
A group of unsung heroes from Preston are helping makes the festive season special for people who would normally be alone on Christmas Day
Karen Peddie, 58, from Lostock Hall, was spurred into action after her first Christmas without her beloved mum, Sheila, who died of lung cancer in 2013.
She said: “I hated that Christmas without my mum being there.
“The following Christmas my daughter Katherine and I went out to a restaurant with my cousins for Christmas dinner but I still felt the same.
“Then in 2015 I saw that a young man in Lostock Hall called Lewis Buller was trying to organise transport for his ‘Find a Friend’ Christmas Dinner for people who would normally be alone on Christmas Day.
“I am a casual driver for Lancashire County Council working for Travel Care driving the elderly and people with learning disabilities.
“So I asked if we could use one of their buses.
“I volunteered to drive it for free if they would just charge for fuel and insurance and they agreed.”
Karen says when she first suggested they get involved to her daughter, an All Hallows pupil, she was 15-years-old and was a bit reluctant.
She says: “Like all teenagers she wanted to be with family on Christmas Day and so she wanted to go out with my cousins again.
“But on the day she really enjoyed it.
“I drove and Katherine acted as my passenger assistant.
“Katherine was always quite shy but it helped bring her out of her shell.”
Now, the event which takes place at St Paul’s Church Hall in Farington Moss, is in its fourth year and Karen and Katherine devote every Christmas Day to ensuring its success.
Karen says: “In the first year we had 15 people and Lewis was doing all the cooking himself in a small kitchen.
“He asked for donations of food and gifts which were handed in at various drop off points.
“But it has grown each year and this year we are expecting around 40 people.
“And we have set up a just giving page for money donations so we can buy in the food from the Blue Anchor in Bretherton.”
Lewis Buller says: “Some of these people don’t go out from one week to the next.
“They look forward to it and it is the highlight of their year.
“We could not physically do it without the help of so many people and the kindness and generosity of others.”
On his first Christmas Lewis says local textile worker Karen Sutton-Taylor, 59, from Bamber Bridge turned up and as she jokes: “took over”.
She says: “I went along on the first Christmas Eve and took over.
“I do the promoting, getting people to donate and I organise the volunteers.
“My family come along too and help out.
“I basically do the front of house and Lewis does the back.
“There are always lots of people who turn up and we all just have a brilliant, fun day.”
Karen Peddie says working as a volunteer at Christmas truly brings the real meaning home.
She says: “We started to think about what Christmas is really about.
“There are a lot of people out there who are on their own.
“On the day we have people from all walks of life.
“They all enjoy themselves and have a great time.
“They get a cooked meal, a meal to take home, sandwiches and lots of Christmas gifts.
“It’s lovely to do some good for other people.”
Karen says Katherine, who is now 19 and just left Newman College, is still her trusty assistant.
She says: “Katherine has grown with it.
“Since we began she has done it every year.”
And they have compromised by still going to Karen’s cousins for a family get together at night.
But as Lewis, the man behind the whole idea points out, “On Christmas day it is like we are all just one big family.”
Do you know a Christmas hero? Contact Louisa on 01772 838 185