It’s like Christmas has come all at once

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After losing his wife just four weeks ago, George Blake wasn’t feeling very festive.

But that changed when the 88-year-old got a last-minute invitation to an annual party which takes the season of goodwill to a whole new level.

Mrs Christmas, Gloria Stewart, centre, hosts the annual Christmas lunch for the Elderly at Niagara Leisure Centre in Sheffield pictured with her mother-in-law Kath Stewart, 93, and family-friend Sue Pollard

Mrs Christmas, Gloria Stewart, centre, hosts the annual Christmas lunch for the Elderly at Niagara Leisure Centre in Sheffield pictured with her mother-in-law Kath Stewart, 93, and family-friend Sue Pollard

Dressed in his smartest suit with daughter Nina Carlton at his side, George, of Hillsborough, was just one of hundreds of guests in high spirits at Gloria Stewart’s annual Home Alone Christmas Dinner.

Gloria has been affectionately dubbed Sheffield’s Mrs Christmas in honour of her generous spirit.

Tables at Niagara Sports and Social Club were filled with elderly, vulnerable and homeless people from across Sheffield.

George said: “I got a phone call at 10am this morning saying there was a spot for me, so I got my best jacket on.”

Nina added: “It’s been hard because mum died four weeks ago, but we have loved it. It’s like Christmas has come all at once.”

Now in its sixth year, the Christmas dinner once again proved the hottest ticket in town. A team of volunteers donned festive jumpers to serve up turkey with all the trimmings.

For people like Philip and Eva Grisdale, of Ecclesfield, the event means a lot more than just going home with a full tummy. Philip, 93, said: “We lost our son in August, he was 70. We’re facing our first Christmas without him. He usually threw a big party and this is the first time we’ve been on our own.

“It hits you hardest this time of year. Coming here has helped me look forward to Christmas. We’ve both enjoyed ourselves. You make friends and celebrate.”

A disco, entertainers singing old favourites, raffles and festive treats helped to round off another hugely successful event. The event is arranged in a matter of weeks with donations and help from local businesses such as Patterson’s Butchers in Firth Park - which has donated 300 turkeys to the dinner.

Gloria, aged 64, said: “It was only ever meant to be one year. Every time I do it it’s so overwhelming seeing how much it means to people just to get out and have some company. People make friends here.

“I’m not a charity so I do it all myself.

“I know when I get home I’ll have messages from people trying to get on the list for next year.”

n As a reward for her hard work, mother-of-four Gloria was serenaded by pop star Olly Murs on ITV’s Surprise Surprise last night.