By Cleo Fraser
It's loneliness rather than poverty that draws about 2500 people to the Auckland City Mission annual Christmas lunch, says an organiser.
Auckland City Missioner Diane Robertson says those who attend the lunch - where roast vegetables, ham, chicken, cake and ice cream are served - are from all walks of life.
"It's just a huge mix of people who have nowhere else to go on Christmas Day," she told NZ Newswire.
"It's not about poverty, it's about the spirit of Christmas being about being together with other people.
About 550 volunteers will collectively contribute 2750 hours of their time putting up decorations, wrapping gifts, setting tables, washing dishes and serving food.
Doors open at 11:30am on Tuesday and crowds will be entertained by a choir until lunch is served about 12:30pm, followed by dessert.
Everyone is presented with a gift before heading home.
"There is this amazing sense of family [on the day], it's overwhelming," Ms Robertson said.
"You hear stories such as the old gentlemen who hasn't had Christmas with anyone for years or families who say this is the only time that they're without alcohol or violence or the only time the kids laugh.
"It's these stories that make you realise this event is so important."
The mission has also distributed 25,000 gifts as well as food parcels to low-income families across Auckland.
Throughout the year the mission supports homeless people to reintegrate into the wider community, donates thousands of food parcels to families and assists other social service providers.
Each year in December the mission aims to raise $900,000 to go towards running costs throughout the year. So far they have received about $600,000.
The menu for New Zealand’s biggest Christmas feast
About 2500 people will celebrate Christmas at the Auckland City Mission lunch, held at the Viaduct Events Centre at 11:30am today. All are welcome.
What will be served:
- 240kg each of chicken, ham, potatoes and kumara
- 60kg each of beans and carrots
- 500 litres of ice cream
- 150 litres of jelly
- 100 litres of fruit
- 2500 slices of cake
- About 550 volunteers will contribute 2750 hours on the day
- 3000 gifts given
- 3000 Christmas crackers pulled
- 500 balloons on display
Visit www.aucklandcitymission.org.nz to donate.