Christmas dinner support ensures event will be held

The new team heading up the Dunedin Community Christmas Dinner includes (from left) Dunedin city...
The new team heading up the Dunedin Community Christmas Dinner includes (from left) Dunedin city councillor Andrew Whiley, Acts of Kindness trustees Grant and Zachariah Hardy and Cr Kevin Gilbert. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD
After a shaky start, preparations for the Dunedin Community Christmas Dinner are in full swing, with the Dunedin City Council and Dunedin Community House stepping in to help, Brenda Harwood reports.

The giant community Christmas dinner at Dunedin Town Hall has been in doubt, organisers struggling to get the ball rolling.

The event has been organised since 2013 by the Acts of Kindness Charitable Trust, led by Grant and the late Anne Hardy, and their son Zachariah.

It aims to ensure everyone in Dunedin gets the chance to have a festive meal and company on Christmas Day.

Mr Hardy said Mrs Hardy had been the "driving force" behind the Dunedin Community Christmas Dinner and, after her death from cancer in July, he and Zachariah had been battling to make the event happen this year.

"It has been a very hard year for us, and without all the energy and work Anne put in to the project, we were struggling," Mr Hardy said.

Hearing of the difficulties, Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich and council chief executive Sandy Graham committed to ensuring the event went ahead, providing financial support through the Mayoral fund.

In addition, councillor Kevin Gilbert, Dunedin Community House chairman Cr Andrew Whiley and executive officer Rob Tigeir are working alongside Grant and Zachariah Hardy on the practicalities of organising the large community event.

Mr Radich said he was proud to be supporting the Dunedin Community Christmas Dinner through the Mayoral fund.

"I want everyone in Dunedin to have some cheer at Christmas," he said.

Cr Whiley was happy to put his community contacts to good use in support of the community Christmas dinner and said it was great to have Cr Gilbert and his wife Esther involved as well, given their knowledge of the food and catering industry.

"We are all more than happy to get involved to take the pressure off Grant and Zachariah ... so they can relax and enjoy the Christmas dinner," Cr Whiley said.

The late Anne Hardy, pictured before the 2022 Dunedin Community Christmas Dinner. The Dunedin...
The late Anne Hardy, pictured before the 2022 Dunedin Community Christmas Dinner. The Dunedin City Council has stepped in to help run the event this year, acknowledging its importance to the community and honouring Mrs Hardy’s contribution over many years. PHOTO: STAR FILES
"The mayor and councillors also understand how much people are hurting in the community at present — there is a lot of financial struggle and also people facing loneliness," Cr Whiley said.

"So, we feel the community Christmas dinner is a bright light on what could be a dark day for people.

"It is also a good way for all of us to honour Anne and show our appreciation for all the work she did on behalf of the community."

Compass is providing access to its kitchens, stalwart chef Geoff Stewart returning to lead the team preparing the festive meal for up to 500 guests, plus volunteers on Christmas Day.

Along with taking bookings for Christmas dinner guests, as in previous years, the team at Dunedin Community House is also accepting offers from volunteers and compiling a list of their availability and skills. Volunteers will take on a variety of roles, including food preparation, serving and table hosts.

"We are happy to do whatever we can to make the Christmas dinner happen," Mr Tigeir said.

"We get to speak to the people who are signing up to come along as guests, and we see just how important it is for the community at what can be a difficult time of year," he said.

Mr Hardy said having the support of the mayor, Crs Whiley and Gilbert, as well as extra support from Dunedin Community House, had been "very encouraging" for himself and Zachariah.

"It has been good to see how much the community Christmas dinner is valued by council and in the community, and that has given us a lift of energy to carry on.

"I want to say thank you to everyone for their support and practical help — it makes all the difference."

The dinner represented the principle of unconditional love, and would be "a home for people on Christmas Day", he said.

 - The Dunedin Community Christmas Dinner will be held from 11.30am on December 25, at Dunedin Town Hall.

To register as a guest or volunteer, contact Dunedin Community House by phoning (03)471-6150, visiting the website or calling in at reception at 43 Princes St.