The town centre church of St Peter’s Harrogate, which provides the homeless and vulnerable with breakfast each day throughout the year, will be trying to make Christmas happier for those in need this Christmas.
On the morning of Christmas Eve, the normal daily breakfast will instead be a Christmas dinner with turkey and all the trimming, served at 8.15am. Members of the ‘Breakfast Club’, as it’s called, will also enjoy a group visit to the Pantomime at Harrogate Theatre, with money they have raised themselves.
The team of volunteers from St Peter’s Church is led by Hannah Beck provides breakfast for between a dozen and thirty ‘members’ of the Breakfast Club and it will be an early start on Christmas Eve.
“I will be getting in at 3am to put the turkeys in the oven”, says Hannah (pictured with members of her team of volunteers).
“The turkeys come from Addyman butchers in Commercial Street and have been paid for by a generous donation from local firms – and in addition we are always receiving donations from local businesses including Betty’s Tea Rooms who provide our bread, Sainsbury, Greggs, Asda and Tesco among many supporters.”
The Breakfast Club has approximately 14 volunteers, working on a rota basis, serving hot drinks, fruit juice, cereals, home-made broth, and their speciality, poached egg on a cheese and ham toastie. Some of the volunteers are former vulnerable members who are now giving back.
“On Christmas Eve we provide a full Christmas dinner at 8:15 in the morning, including presents for everyone,” says Hannah. “Our members, who change all the time, can number up to 24 on any morning, and the fellowship, discussion, fun and laughter are as important as the food. We have had a Breakfast Club wedding, baptism and confirmation, as well as funerals. Many of our members have wonderful success stories which they share with us – they are all part of St Peter’s family – and many give back.”
While only a few of the Breakfast Club members are sleeping rough, Hannah says that many are ‘sofa-surfing’, most have little or no money and many haven’t received benefits for several weeks.
“We find that their biggest need is for friendship in a group where no one is judged and everyone is welcomed whoever they are.”
Every day throughout the year the team also provides food parcels for collection before Evening Prayer. Christmas Day will be no exception. As Hannah says, “the needs of the poor don’t stop on Christmas Day.”
This Christmas the afternoon food parcels will have the addition of Christmas gifts from the churches of Lower Wharfedale, and additional items of food, ‘smellies’ and gifts from local traders.
“As poverty in Harrogate continues, we carry on giving out bags of food every evening before Evening Prayer to anyone who comes in, in the hope that there is no-one who has to go hungry. Just as St Peter was told by Christ after the Resurrection: “Feed my sheep”, so too do we try to follow Christ’s command.”