KIND-HEARTED businesses are embracing the true spirit of Christmas by throwing open their doors to those in need on December 25.
Ian and Debbie Payne, from Memory Lane Cafe, Leigh Park, and Bev Steele from Ian Henry Barbers, have invited strangers who would otherwise have no one else to be with, to spend Christmas Day with them.
Mountains of food has been donated to make free three-course turkey dinners with all the trimmings for homeless and lonely elderly people in Leigh Park.
Backpacks full of warm clothes have been given for those living on the streets and a generous volunteer will be doing taxi runs to take those without transport to the Greywell Precinct.
It has proved so popular they will be taking bookings and also opening on Boxing Day for drinks and a hot buffet.
In Cosham, Bev will be giving free haircuts and a warm welcome to men who would otherwise be alone over the festive period.
It really makes Christmas when you see a community pull together – shops, individuals, volunteers – at such a wonderful timeIan Payne
All she is asking in return is a donation to The Samaritans or the charity Papyrus – which both work to prevent suicides.
Their generosity comes as scores of The News readers have donated presents to Age UK Portsmouth, inspired by our Christmas campaign, Don’t Let Them Be Lonely.
Ian, who hit the headlines in October with his macabre Halloween window display, said: ‘We never seem to think of the real meaning of Christmas, we seem to forget about other people.
‘We have completely lost that feeling of helping each other, it has become very commercial.’
So many people have shown an interest in going along that the couple, and their children, are doing the lunches in sittings.
Ian added: ‘We would like to thank everyone who is supporting us, the people helping out with the wonderful donations.
‘It really makes Christmas when you see a community pull together – shops, individuals, volunteers – at such a wonderful time. More than 80,000 people have seen our original Facebook post.
‘It’s made us realise how many people need help over Christmas so we have decided to open our doors on Boxing Day , too.
‘People can come in for a buffet and hot drink.
‘We want to thank everyone for their wonderful help in making this happen.’
Bev has been cutting men’s hair for decades and knows only too well that they can bottle their feelings up.
With Christmas being a very family-oriented time of the year it is often when people who have no-one else are at their very lowest.
That is why Bev and barbers Lucy Babbage and Zoe Paffett are offering a haircut and a friendly chat for those who will be alone on Christmas Day.
Bev, 53, said: ‘I’m doing this to raise awareness of mental health issues for men. As a barber I’m with men every day. Many men confide in us. To them we are an outlet to let their feelings out and they tell us things they don’t feel they can tell their nearest and dearest.
‘There is such a stigma attached to men having and showing their problems. Working with men, I wanted to do something that I’m connected with.
‘The Lions Barber Collective train barbers across the country to spot the signs of someone in despair and listen and maybe point them in the right direction. I don’t want anyone to be alone this Christmas.’Pop in to Ian Henry Barbers between 9am and midday. You can donate at bit.ly/1JgfhkH or bit.ly/1mrshPD.
Contact Ian on 07908 026319 to book for the Leigh Park dinner.