A kind-hearted restaurateur has cooked free festive meals for elderly people spending Christmas alone.
Andy King, who owns The Junction Restaurant and Sidings Bar in Widdrington Station, closed his restaurant to the public and opened it up to around 50 pensioners who live by themselves.
He and his catering staff served festive lunches with all the trimmings, provided small gifts and even arranged a visit by Father Christmas – much to the delight of the appreciative diners.
The idea was inspired after Andy watched a TV advert for a well-known department store that highlighted the plight of the lonely at Christmas. It is estimated that around half a million pensioners will spend Christmas Day alone with many of them feeling lonely and isolated.
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. I, like a lot of people, was moved by the sentiments behind the John Lewis TV advert and I decided to do something to let older members of the community know that we care about them."
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."
Another, George Nesbitt, from Ashington, was appreciative of Andy’s hospitality. He said: "This is so kind of Andy and his staff, it’s really made my day."
Andy is taking the caring role a step further. Tomorrow on Christmas Day, he and his staff will be taking time out to telephone the diners to make sure that they have a friendly voice to talk to and to make sure that they are safe and warm in their homes.
He said: "I’m hoping that this Christmas will be special for them all. They’ve all experienced many things in life and all have a story to tell. It’s easy for us with family and friends to forget that there are people out there who have no one at Christmas. I hope that we’ve made a difference to them."