Mission serves up Christmas lunch for thousands

Cherie Howie ,
Publish Date
Friday, 25 December 2015, 2:18p.m.
Christmas lunch being served at the Auckland City Mission (Gia Garrick)
Christmas lunch being served at the Auckland City Mission (Gia Garrick)

A plateful of protein, carbs and veges, that'll fill the puku. A bit of a yack, that'll keep the neurons in the brain firing.

A group of fellow travellers in life around the table with you on Christmas Day? That's just straight up good for the soul.

And so 2000 contented souls gathered for the Auckland City Mission Christmas lunch today at egg-shaped tables festooned with balloons and laden with goodies on multi-million dollar waterfront real estate at the Viaduct Events Centre.

Cold meat was served with warm smiles and lashings of chicken, spuds and greens, topped off with more than 600 litres of ice-cream, fruit and jelly.

They came from all corners of the city, and yes, the kai was good. But the camaraderie was better.

Mum-of-seven Tehillah Amituanai made her way to the venue from Glen Innes with husband Loia and six of their kids. She promptly made friends with another family sharing their table.

"It's important to come so we can talk and enjoy and have fun. It's a good feeling, you are eating and drinking together. It's important to be with other people."

Papatoetoe mum Toa Veamatahu was also part of a large family group, including her sister visiting from Samoa.

"This is great. It's so good to share something with family. It's important to be together at Christmas."

Three tables over, Willy Tepu was about to tuck into a gravy-soaked feed of chicken, ham and veges.

"This is primo. I'm loving it hard out," Tepu said.

"I reckon the company's the best thing, meeting new faces and seeing people you haven't seen for a long time. It's a great family time."

City Mission boss Dame Diane Robertson was at her last Christmas lunch before retiring after 22 years at the helm. She helped organise, but didn't stay for serving.

Instead, she shared a rare Christmas celebration with family, including her 2-year-old granddaughter, Lily Holt.

After farewelling the more than 500 volunteers that made today's lunch possible for hundreds of families, Dame Diane left to share Christmas with her own.

"It's fantastic," a rushed Dame Diane told the Herald about her long overdue family Christmas.

Those celebrating, each of whom will also go home with a gift, were in good hands.

"It's an amazing day made possible by volunteers."

The Mission believed no one should have to eat alone on Christmas Day, she said.

"It is not only about poverty; it is about the spirit of Christmas, and about celebrating with each other."

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