The best present of all

Guests at the dinner for those lonely this Christmas at Owlerton Stadium
Guests at the dinner for those lonely this Christmas at Owlerton Stadium
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ALL the wonderful trimmings of Christmas - a five-course lunch, presents and crackers - were there.

But for the hundreds of South Yorkshire people who attended big-hearted Gloria Stewart’s festive dinner the best gift of all was the ‘marvellous’ company.

Party hats firmly on, they sat down with new friends to chat, play bingo and enjoy crooners aged up to 90 sing in what for many would be their only seasonal celebration.

Flo Wood, aged 83, of Wincobank, said: “I think it is wonderful. The best bit is it brings everyone together who is on their own. From here you can find new friends.”

The lunch at Owlerton Stadium yesterday was bustling.

Festively dressed volunteers weaved between tables offering drinks, diners joked together and beaming players from Sheffield Eagles were among the special guests.

“I think when you get to our age you can be stuck in the house all the time,” said Pat Lincoln, 69, of Firth Park.

“This gets you out. For some this is the highlight of the year.”

Widower Graham Butler, 61, of Brinsworth, agreed. He said: “It’s my first time here, I came because I’ve just lost my wife. The loneliness is quite bad.

“She would have done everything - without her this is my Christmas.”

Stories like Graham’s are the reason Ecclesfield pensioner Gloria set up the lunch four years ago and spends months working on the event.

Star readers and businesses rallied at the last minute to help the 62-year-old this year as she was £2,500 short of meeting costs.

And at the lunch the well wishes, donations and congratulations came constantly as passers-by pushed cards into her hands.

Gloria, with eyes brimming, said: “I’m a bit emotional.

“Now everything is on schedule, the people are here and you can see for yourself just what impact it does have.”