14 Jun 2020

Wānaka brings Christmas community dinner forward to spread cheer

10:51 am on 14 June 2020

The venue is set, the venison has been shot, all that is missing is enough volunteers to help with the washing up.

Generic stills of Wanaka

Wānaka has been hit hard by Covid-19, so it's hoped a community dinner will spread some cheer. Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

Plans are well under way in Wānaka to cater for 150 people at a Christmas community dinner next Friday in an attempt to spread some cheer in a town struck hard by Covid-19.

Yeverley McCarthy is the chairperson of the Wānaka Community Hub, which opened in November and is also the chair of the Upper Clutha Christmas Charitable Trust which runs the annual Santa's Grotto.

McCarthy said the trust decided last year to hold a Christmas dinner for the community this December but Covid-19 forced them to revise plans, with the decision made to hold the dinner in June instead.

"We're seeing the pressures on so many people around the place and people are lonely and weary of all of this, so we decided to bring it forward.''

McCarthy said many people who were in regular contact as they accessed food vouchers and other support would also attend the dinner, which will be held at the Community Hub.

"We've got ham, turkey, we've got the venison which my son shot yesterday and beautiful desserts that someone has offered to make. So all in all we're going to have a lovely night and just have a bit of camaraderie and feel good about the world again.''

McCarthy said the Hub had been supporting many workers from overseas.

"They don't have work, it's not that they don't want to it's just there's no work. So when they come into the Hub to get their [food] vouchers, there's a lot of tears and our volunteers are even in tears.

"Today a little girl came in to register for the dinner and she just burst into tears and said 'what a lovely thing to do'. So it's just an outreach, really, to say we're thinking of you all.''

McCarthy said tenants at the Community Hub, including the district health board and Presbyterian Support, were dealing with a lot of mental health issues from people in the town.

"People have just hit the wall a bit. A lot of these kids can't get home and they're stuck and i'm sure it's the same for families.''

"There's no work, there's rent to pay. It's just not easy. In fact, it wasn't easy before lockdown. Wānaka is quite affluent but a lot of people are paying very high rents, there's not a lot of disposable income. You have a glitch like this and it really does affect them badly."

On Friday McCarthy says on the night she would be behind the scenes making the venison hotpots and doing the dishes.

"We don't need any money and we don't need any food, but we need quite a lot of volunteers to help us with the setting up and cleaning up. I've got all my neighbours coming to come, everyone is doing their bit.

"What has happened with Covid is that it's made everyone take a big deep breath and we've gotten to know our neighbours. We've found out that there are quite a lot of lonely people in our communities and it's just a lovely thing to be able to do something like this, that makes people feel altogether better about the world.''

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