26 Dec 2011

Biggest turnout at Auckland Christmas lunch

2:40 pm on 26 December 2011

Some 2500 people turned up to the Auckland City Mission Christmas lunch, making it the largest the organisation has hosted.

Auckland City Missioner Diane Robertson said they'd expected about 1800 people at the Viaduct Events Centre on Sunday but had prepared for a few hundred more, just in case.

However, with close to 1000 extra people, Ms Robertson said food was rationed very carefully to make sure everyone got a meal.

Ten extra tables were set up inside the venue and take-out boxes were handed out.

Volunteers spent Christmas Eve preparing 200kg of vegetables, 250kg of ham and chicken and buckets of fruit salad and jelly for the feast.

Before the doors opened at 11.30am, some 200 people were queuing outside the centre.

Ms Robertson said many who attend are elderly people looking for company on Christmas Day.

She said the mission had also been overwhelmed by people wanting food parcels in the run-up to Christmas.

Hundreds at Christchurch lunch

In Christchurch, about 650 people turned up for the City Mission's annual lunch, held this year in a marquee at Christchurch East School.

City Missioner Michael Gorman said he hoped the celebration will bring some peace to the many people stressed by this year's quakes.

The mission's doors were closed after the first of a new series of strong earthquakes that shook the region on Friday, but the organisation received donations of a large amount of food for the annual meal.

Meals, hampers for Wellingtonians

In the capital, the Salvation Army hosted a ticket-only lunch for about 120 people who would otherwise be on their own.

Spokesperson Peter Christensen said the meal is their way of spreading the Christmas message.

He said the Salvation Army has also distributed food parcels and vouchers to families struggling to make ends meet.

The Wellington Mission said many of the families who received its Christmas hampers this year have been budgeting clients who are trying to get out of debt but cannot then afford even some basics.

More than 1000 food hampers went out, along with toiletries and toys.

In the lead-up to Christmas, Hurricanes rugby players and Pulse netballers delivered 105 Christmas hampers in the greater Wellington area.

Wellington City Mission chief executive Michelle Branney said people are making a positive effort to pay off debts.

"It seems to be that if you pay your bills you don't have enough for food but if you feed your family ... then you get into arrears with your bills."

The mission received more than 5000 donated toys for Christmas.

Meanwhile, the Salvation Army said its Wishing Tree annual appeal has raised more than $22,000 so far this year, slightly more than last year.