FREE Christmas lunch was served by elves and angels to help bring people together.
The special festive event at Oving Jubilee Village Hall on Thursday was organised by Oving Parish Community Watch and the Oving Wardens as part of their monthly parish tea parties.
Ron Migliorini, a volunteer since the start, said: “Oving Parish Community Watch was started two-and-a-half years ago from nothing.
“We realised we had to do something for the elderly in the parish who did not want to go out alone.
“It is for the elderly, disabled or infirm who would not normally go out. We re-invented afternoon tea and started with 15 coming, and now have about 50 people.”
The idea came from Liz Smith, an Oving parish councillor and the watch co-ordinator. She received support from The Co-operative, The Hyde Group and Affinity Sutton.
Liz said: “Hyde has supported us right from the beginning.
“They backed up the vision that I had and realised that it would be really good to involve the residents of the village so we are truly grateful to them.
“It is not just monetary support, if I ring them with a problem, they will help to sort it out.”
The Hyde Group is responsible for social housing in the Chichester district and provides services to residents in the Chichester, Petworth and Midhurst.
Sandy Parkinson, regeneration co-ordinator, said: “Liz applied for our small grant pot cash for the Community Watch and it has now had two amounts of money from the pot, which has helped fund the lunches all year round.
“The Oving Wardens help by going to pick up people who would find it difficult to get here, so it is fully inclusive. We even have some young families who come.
“It is about them having a place to meet and talk with people. Liz started it and it has grown and grown.
“For the Christmas lunch, everyone was asked to bring a friend so someone who has not been before could see what it is like and hopefully, keep coming back. It is fabulous for them to get together and chat.”
Liz, who was named Best Community Person in the Observer Community Awards last Monday, said the scheme relied on a team of volunteers.
“Without the volunteers, there is no way I would have won the award or be able to run the tea parties. They are brilliant,” she said.
“Thanks to Hyde, who paid the money for it to continue. Community Watch doesn’t just do tea parties, we are here to help. We will also provide key safes to anyone who needs one.”
Ron said the tea party idea was now spreading beyond the Oving parish, which includes Colworth, Drayton, Merston, Oving and Shopwyke.
“Liz is now fielding calls from other parishes wanting to do the same thing, so other people are picking up on the idea.
“It is really interesting because when it first started, a few people came along, then others came along. All of a sudden, people who had not seen each other for years were greeting each other again.
“It was so lovely at the Christmas party to see them all coming in, hugging each other and exchanging cards.”
From January, the monthly parish parties will be brought forward to lunch time, running from 1pm to 2.30pm.
First dates for the year are January 21, February 18 and March 17. Parish parties are held at Oving Jubilee Village Hall, in High Street, Oving.
For more information, contact co-ordinator Liz Smith on 01243 780733 on 07808 062368.
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