30 Years of Making Merry Christmas for Others

13 February 2017

It is hard to believe that some people - beyond those working in retail or wholesale - are thinking about Christmas 2017.   But Margaret Peacock and her merry band of colleagues from the Fibromyalgia* Support Team (all volunteers) and some close family friends are thinking about it already.
For the past 30 years, Margaret has organised a Christmas dinner in the Coleraine area for older people who are on their own.    This Christmas past, Margaret and the team hosted 48 people for Christmas dinner at Rathain Fold in Coleraine.   This involved  raising funds to buy all the food, asking for donations for gifts for everyone, organising lifts for those living outside the Fold and a schedule for collections and drop offs, cooking and serving dinner for everyone, organising entertainment, making sure everyone left with a present and a hug.
We asked her how this all started and she said, “When my great Uncle Jimmy past away some 30 years ago, I said to myself, ‘Well Margaret, you can’t be sitting here by yourself next Christmas, what are you going to do about it?’  And that’s when I decided, I would put the call out to see if anyone wanted to join me for a Christmas get together.    Before I knew it, we had the makings of a party, well certainly all the people, and I was determined that everyone would have some good food and a good time.   Being on your own is no reason to be alone, especially at Christmas.   I was going to get busy making sure others had a memorable day.
“Of course I couldn’t do this without help, fellow volunteers Elizabeth Baird (the cook) and Debbie Davis from the Fibromyalgia Support Team along with family friends Jill, David and Mervyn Witherow help with fundraising, cooking, collecting, recruiting, borrowing and asking for donations from shops, friends, local businesses, anyone and everyone, we think will help us.
“This year, we had guests from Fold Housing Association’s Rathain Fold and Tullaghmurry Fold, Clanmill Housing’s Hazlett Court and many people who live out in the community.
Fold Housing Association’s Rathain Fold has opened its doors (and kitchen) so Margaret and her team of volunteers can host the Christmas dinner celebration (and have done so for the past 3 years).   Scheme Coordinator Yvonne Thompson said, “We have been delighted to help host the event by allowing Margaret use of the excellent facilities at Rathain Fold.   They have everything needed in terms of fully equipped kitchen and of course the Common Room where everyone comes together.
She added, “She is a lovely lady and all the volunteers make everyone so welcome, which is just how we are at Rathain Fold.   Our tenants and other guest tell us how much they enjoyed this past Christmas get together.   Not only do they organise all the catering but there is  live music, singing,  a raffle and presents for everyone who attends.   It is quite simply a wonderful occasion  and to quote one of the guest, who kindly wrote to tell us,  ‘2016 was my best Christmas yet!', now that’s some compliment!”
Pictured above: Elizabeth Baird and Debbie Davies with Margaret Peacock (centre) who has been inspried to organise a Christmas celebration for older people in the Coleraine area for the past 30 years. 
About Fibromyalgia*
Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is a long-term condition that cause pain all over the body.   The pain does not reflect any specific identified problems with joints, mustles or bones.  It can impact every part of a person’s life.   Relationships with spouses/partners, children and friens all be affected and people living with the condition can experience loneliness, isolation, self-doubt and guilt.  
If you would like to find out more about Fibromyalgia contact Fibromyalgia Support Northern Ireland (FMSNI)  on 028 9035 5655 (11am – 2pm) or email info@fmsni.org.uk or visit www.fmsni.org.uk

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