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Leeds volunteers rally round to give the lonely a Christmas to remember

Marvina Newton (right)  founder of the Leeds charity Angels of Youth chats to Dana Lockwood at the Corn Exchange. PIC: Tony Johnson
Marvina Newton (right) founder of the Leeds charity Angels of Youth chats to Dana Lockwood at the Corn Exchange. PIC: Tony Johnson
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A CHARITY founder was moved to tears when hundreds of lonely people came together to share a meal on Christmas Eve.

The event at the Corn Exchange was organised by city youth empowerment charity Angel of Youth as part of a project to tackle loneliness during the holiday season.

PIC: Tony Johnson

PIC: Tony Johnson

Chief executive Marvina Newton was helped by dozens of young people from Notre Dame and Roundhay sixth form colleges, and Leeds City College over several weeks to pull together the event.

She had been moved when hearing about the extent of loneliness when she took part in the Leeds Great Get Together, which was held in memory of murdered Batley MP Jo Cox on Briggate in June, and wanted to put on a party for anyone who might feel alone at Christmas.

People and businesses across the city donated their time, gifts, food and entertainment, and volunteers spent hours cooking at the Real Junk Food Project in Armley before the big event.

Ms Newton said: “We knew people would come, but we didn’t expect so many, with over 230 people. We had prepared so much food, that as soon as we were finished we went over to St George’s Crypt to offer the extra food.

Leeds charity Angels of Youth  at the Corn Exchange on Christmas Eve to provide more than 200 lonely people with a three course dinner and entertainment. Picture Tony Johnson.

Leeds charity Angels of Youth at the Corn Exchange on Christmas Eve to provide more than 200 lonely people with a three course dinner and entertainment. Picture Tony Johnson.

“What was amazing that there was no discrimination - they were young and old, white, black and Asian - loneliness can effect anyone. We gave out over 250 presents, and 50 Freedom Boxes from the Real Junk Food Project containing a weeks’ worth of food to people who needed it.

“There were lots of tear-jerking moments when people were telling us the reasons they were on their own.”

Meanwhile, young people who had spent time in care were given a Christmas to remember thanks to volunteers.

More than 50 guests attended The Christmas Dinner, hosted by national charity the Lemn Sissay Foundation at Herd Farm on Christmas Day. Many would have otherwise spent the day alone, in a hostel, bedsit or sofa surfing without family around.

Charlotte Davies from the Leeds charity Angels of Youth chats to a visitor at the Corn Exchange on Christmas Eve. Picture Tony Johnson.

Charlotte Davies from the Leeds charity Angels of Youth chats to a visitor at the Corn Exchange on Christmas Eve. Picture Tony Johnson.

Organiser Miz DeShannon said: “Some of the guests were visibly blown away by the fact that such effort had been made for them, we had tears and hugs and lots of laughs as well. It had been a busy four days for the volunteers, but another amazing year at Herd Farm.”