Chefs from 16 Air Assault Brigade have served up platefuls of festive cheer to homeless people at Colchester Emergency Night Shelter.
Chefs from the town’s Merville Barracks have been cooking dinner once a week at the homeless shelter for nearly three years, but wanted to make a special effort for Christmas. They raised £1,100 to put on a four-course Christmas meal for the residents and buy presents, such as jumpers and toiletries.
Chefs Sergeant Ashley Jacobs and Corporal Sam Coote cooked, supported by colleagues from 216 Parachute Signal Squadron serving and tidying up. The festive menu started with canapés as residents arrived, then everyone sat down to tomato and basil soup, turkey and all the trimmings, chocolate fudge cake and cheese.
Sgt Jacobs, 32 from Felixstowe, said: “We come here to give something back to the local community in Colchester, which supports us as soldiers so well, and help people who are less fortunate than us. We decided to do something special for Christmas and everyone at the Garrison has been really generous supporting us. We made much more than we needed to pay for the meal so we’ve got more than £500 left over to support our ongoing work.”
The voluntary project, which has been running since early 2014, has also seen the chefs re-organise the centre’s kitchen and stock keeping.
Cpl Sam Coote at the oven; Crown copyright.
Cpl Coote, 26 from Colchester, said: “I really enjoy coming down to cook at the homeless shelter and the Christmas dinner has had a really friendly and happy feel. It’s great to be able to use our skills as chefs to give something back to the community and getting to know some of the residents has given me a different perspective on life.”
Rusel Broadway, Colchester Emergency Shelter support worker, said: “Christmas can be a difficult time for homeless people, particularly those who are estranged from their families, and events like this help bring everyone together and create a community feeling. The Army chefs have put a fantastic effort into the Christmas dinner, as they do every time they come to cook for us. The soldiers are a real part of the centre’s life and take a real interest in our residents, which makes them feel less socially isolated.”
Resident Paul Knight said: “The dinner was amazing, very tasty and almost too much too eat. The soldiers are very friendly and professional and it’s nice to feel their support and care for us. The Night Shelter is really helping me get back on a solid footing, and I’m due to start a job soon and arranging permanent accommodation.”