A kind-hearted Northumberland restaurateur showed that charity begins at home by turning his attention to those spending Christmas alone.
Andy King closed his eatery to the public for two days and opened it up to 43 pensioners who live by themselves.
As well as the festive lunches with all the trimmings, small gifts and a visit by Santa – who gave out boxes of chocolate donated by local businesses – was provided by Andy and his catering staff.
The owner of The Junction Restaurant and Sidings Bar in Widdrington Station was inspired to offer the festive treat by the John Lewis TV advert highlighting the plight of the lonely at Christmas.
The pensioners came from Ashington, Amble, Morpeth and Widdrington Station, among other places.
Andy said: “We do a lot for charity throughout the year; mainly for True Heroes Racing, a charity for injured former services personnel riding British superbikes, but at Christmas time, I wanted to make a difference to local people living on their own.
“Age UK and people in the community identified the people who would be deserving of a meal at the restaurant. An NHS kitchen assistant who lives in Newbiggin came along to help, as did a couple living in New Zealand who were in Northumberland to see family over Christmas.
“It would have been great to have a few more people here for the lunches, but in hindsight, even if we only had a couple of people along who otherwise wouldn’t have received a visit or left the house over Christmas, it would have achieved what we set out to achieve.
“I hope that we’ve made a difference to the 43 pensioners.”
One happy diner was pensioner Isabella Tynan, from Ashington.
She said: “This has been a lovely day out for us all. I’ve had a great meal, had a laugh with the people on my table and made some new friends.
“I’ve even met Santa Claus too.”