CHRISTMAS Day is meant to be a joyous occasion but for some people it’s the loneliest and saddest day of the year. That’s why Rona and Laurie Black created the first Christmas lunch in Coronet Bay in 2007.
Some of us were fortunate to be a part of those early lunches and to help out on the day itself. Volunteers sat down and enjoyed the Christmas meal together with those attending, creating a sense of family and community over the years.
Seeing the fabulous goodwill that existed at this worthy event inspired the current team of Coronet Bay Christmas Lunch Inc. to take over in 2014 when Rona and Laurie moved to Wonthaggi.
We welcomed anyone who was on their own, be they young or old, a single person or a couple seeking companionship on Christmas Day.
For the past 14 years, the Coronet Bay Community Hall has been the venue for the annual lunch that brings cheer to so many on Christmas Day.
The community assets committee (CAC) that administers the hall recently increased the charge from a gold coin donation to $15 an hour plus a $200 bond. Community groups conducting events in the hall or within the grounds have also been informed they may need to have public liability insurance.
There was no consultation with community groups or the community regarding the decision to increase the charges. Advice has been received from councillors that the $200 bond has been withdrawn for community groups, but no formal notification has been received. In response to a question about the new fees at last week’s council meeting, the CEO stated “A process to consider the waiving of fees is available by contacting Council officers.”
Yes, we could seek a waiver of fees or we could seek a grant to pay the increased fees, but it all takes precious time. And what about all the other community groups? Why do committees and councils make it so hard for volunteers who are only trying to help their community?
The annual Christmas lunch is one more loss for Coronet Bay. Last year we lost the mobile library that serviced the Waterline townships and were given a broom closet in its place. Now our community groups are losing access to their community hall during a pandemic when social cohesion, mental health and a sense of belonging have never been more important.
Churches are gathering places for some but community halls are for everyone. They are a place for people from all levels of society to come together to enjoy the company of others, to sing, to dance, to talk, to learn, or just to sit and feel warm and safe.
Sadly, in Coronet Bay this is no longer the case.
More than 120 volunteers have prepared and planned for the Coronet Bay Christmas lunch since 2014. They have set the tables, decorated the hall, peeled potatoes and pumpkin and carrots, cooked the turkeys, made the Christmas puddings and pavlovas, dressed the berries, whipped the cream, made the custard … and mixed the fruit punch, which was second to none.
There were many years when we served in excess of 70 meals, including volunteers. One year we put out 82 plates and used them all. That was the year we ran out of pavlovas and berries for volunteers and Richard missed out on his favourite dessert … a lament to be heard many times over.
We retained Rona’s initial idea for a charge of $10 towards the cost of the Christmas lunch but often handed out free tickets for those who were having a difficult time. Generous donors made it possible for us to create a great occasion including chocolates at the end of the meal and a glass of Baileys for those who wished to indulge. Guests took home a ‘’noodle box’’ of homemade Christmas cake and shortbread, truffles and mince pies.
In 2020 due to COVID restrictions, we packed 35 hampers with goodies including homemade biscuits and mince pies, jams and chutney and distributed them to residents from Coronet Bay through most of the Waterline townships. On Christmas morning our fabulous volunteers spent their time delivering and talking to each recipient.
Thanks to the current Coronet Bay Christmas Lunch team of Kaye, Marie, and Christine, and to past team members Helen, Sharrie, Laney, Jan and Julia. We are grateful to the vast number of volunteers who helped us deliver a Christmas lunch on the day itself. And to our community and sponsors who have always supported us.
We’ve met some amazing people and had lots of laughs and fun along the journey. We felt privileged to be a part of such a wonderful event. Our job is now done and we hope that others may continue the journey.
No-one should spend Christmas alone. We have two large tables and one large trestle table. You are most welcome to come and sit at our table and spend Christmas Day enjoying a meal with friends and having a laugh or two along the way. Just call us.