An Army of festive heroes

Major Bate bringing in the crackers for the Salvation Army Christmas dinner''w115304c
Major Bate bringing in the crackers for the Salvation Army Christmas dinner''w115304c
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A SMALL army of volunteers once again worked hard on Christmas Day to ensure that residents did not have to spend the day alone.

The Whitby Corps of the Salvation Army is based at St Peter’s Court and each Christmas provides a festive dinner, entertainment and transport for around 50 vulnerable residents.

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Four large turkeys make the centrepiece for the Christmas dinner, which Major Allen promises is “as good as any you will have”, thanks to the hard work and dedication of volunteers, including head chef Janet White.

He said: “On the day there are usually around 17 of us.

“Many of the volunteers are complete strangers who come along and offer their support.

“It’s a lot of hard work for Marie and I leading up to it, but on the day it’s down to the volunteers and the support we get from the community, we couldn’t do it without them.”

Throughout the day there is a carol service, hot drinks and mince pies served, the singing of Christmas songs – accompanied by Peter White on his ukelele – and the all-important viewing of the Queen’s Speech.

Each year, the centre is open to anyone who is going to be alone, in difficulty or just in need of good company at Christmas.

Many of these are elderly residents who would struggle to attend, but the Army provides for these as well as three cars and a minibus head out to pick people up.

As a result, last year’s deep snow drifts meant that Major Allen was seriously considering cancelling the whole day, until the phone rang.

“Last year we were talking about phoning round and saying the weather is too bad, we won’t do it.

“Within an hour three volunteers who we had never met called and said ‘I’m here for you, I’m not going to let you down.’”

Christmas Day was saved, once again thanks to the dedication of volunteers.

All of the food consumed is donated and Major Allen would like to give thanks to everyone who has given so kindly this year.

He said: “Thanks on behalf of the Salvation Army to everyone who has helped in any way, no matter whether small or large, to make the events a success.”

The Salvation Army was reopened in Whitby 22 years by Major Pat Charlesworth and Major Norma Richardson, who was led by heavenly visions, explained Major Allen.

“Major Norma was working in London and had a vision to recommence the Salvation Army.

“The pictures she was getting was pictures of the abbey and she said ‘that’s where we have got to go – to Whitby.’”

A plaque now sits halfway up the 199 Steps in memory of Major Norma, who died in 1998. Major Pat retired five years ago, so it has fallen on Majors Allen and Marie Bate to continue their hard work.