Festive joy in Skegness for lonely 1,000

Last year's Christmas dinner for the elderly at The Grange in Chapel St Leonards. ANL-161027-144656001
Last year's Christmas dinner for the elderly at The Grange in Chapel St Leonards. ANL-161027-144656001

Christmas is coming early for 1,000 elderly residents in the Skegness area who are being treated to a festive lunch and entertainment.

The massive community effort is being held at different venues over a whole week in December to bring joy to the lonely right along the coast.

Glyn Ettridge is the real-life Santa Claus who has taken on the challenge, following a successful Christmas dinner he organised in Chapel St Leonards last year when he was chairman of the residents’ association.

Mr Ettridge has been at the end of a hotline to happiness for weeks, gathering donations from businesses and charitable organisations.

As a result two venues have been confirmed – the Grosvenor House Hotel in Skegness from December 12 to 16 – and the White Hart in Burgh le Marsh on December 13 and 20.

Mr Ettridge said: “Last year I found out that a large number of the elderly in my village actually lived alone. So, I wondered, how many because of their circumstances, missed out on having a traditional Christmas dinner?

“It transpired that not many got the chance without having to go to a restaurant and pay for the privilege. After three months of asking questions in Anderby, through Chapel St Leonards, Hogsthorpe, Ingoldmells, Winthorpe, Skegness and on to Burgh le Marsh, I realised thousands of elderly people come into this category.

“So, I decided to do something about it. Thanks to Blue Anchor Leisure, Hardy’s Animal Farm and the Skegness lodges of the RAOB (the Buffs), I had over £1,300 pledged in just four days.”

Last year’s free Christmas dinner was provided for 70 people at the Grange in Chapel St Leonards. Mr Ettridge said: “One lady said to me as she was about to leave, ‘I’ve lived here for 31 years, on my own for 12 years, and this is the first time anyone has done something for people like me, without expecting any payment. Thank you so much.’

“All four RAOB lodges gave their full backing, together with a sizeable donation. Soon most food requirements were pledged.

“The Grosvenor House Hotel in Skegness and the White Hart in Burgh-le-Marsh both offered to host the dinners. The support has been tremendous.”

Elderly people attending the events can expect a free Christmas dinner with pudding, cabaret entertainment and a game of bingo. Tickets will be available from mid-November from the hotels.