An Open Invitation on Christmas Day

An Open Invitation on Christmas Day

Christmas 2011 - Ian and Pauline

A SOUTH Armagh Christian charity has once again issued an open invitation to anyone facing a lonely Christmas to join them for a turkey dinner on the big day.

Crossfire Trust, based in the village of Darkley near Keady, has been holding an open house on Christmas Day for almost 20 years.

“There is a greater need this year than ever,” said director Ian Bothwell. “Christmas Day is when the pressure of loneliness really impacts more than any other day. And the financial uncertainties and dread of cold weather are adding to people’s fears even more this year."

“Most people see Christmas as a happy time but many people feel they have nothing to be happy about. For many people, family breakdown issues are reinforced at this time and older people often feel they have more and more memories but less and less friends to share them with.”

Ian has been working in ‘peacemaking’ in south Armagh with his wife Pauline since the 1970s. He was awarded the US President’s Peace Prize in Washington by George W Bush in 2002 in recognition of their service to community relations.

“Some people have been coming for Christmas dinner every year for the past 15 years,” Ian said.

Have his own family ever felt they were missing out on a private family Christmas? “Some years ago we reassessed our Christmas priorities,” he said. “We decided we were going to stop buying presents for people who were going to buy a present back. Instead, we decided to buy presents for people who might not be expecting any.“ Our children, Justin and Megan, who are now 20 and 18 respectively, have urged us to keep our open house going. “They have always found it really fun to open the door to guests and welcome them in. This year, they are both providing part of the taxi service to bring guests in from Caledon and Armagh city. “For us, Christmas is about celebrating God’s gift of life to us and expressing our life to other people. I don’t feel it is a great sacrifice. It is fun to do and is really just offering some basic hospitality.”

Despite financial hardships generally, this year has seen unprecedented donations for the event. “This is the first year that all the food has been donated by local businesses and supporters,” he said. “There are some people out there who are really looking out for the older members of our community.”

He also paid tribute to volunteers who are giving up their time to help with all the preparations for guests. The only thing they are still missing, he says, are some volunteer taxi drivers to collect a number of guests.

“We have about 20 guests coming for mince pies in the morning followed by a turkey dinner in front of a roaring fire. We have room for about eight more people if anyone would like to join us,” he added.

Ian is inviting anyone to join them for Christmas Day from 11am to 6pm but asks that guests give advance notice, if possible, on 07517 28 68 10 to help with food planning.

The Newsletter, 22 December 2011
Photo: Pauline & Ian Bothwell of Crossfire Trust, Darkley, celebrate Christmas early 21/12/2011
Credit: Liam McArdle.com

Click here to view original article in the Newsletter.