For the past decade, Frome Town Council has promoted the ‘Frome Big Christmas Get-Together’ initiative which organises the provision of a complimentary traditional Christmas Day lunch for around 120 guests from the local community. Funded solely by donations, together with the assistance and support of many generous local businesses and willing volunteers, they have been able to support Frome residents who, through circumstance, would otherwise not enjoy the hearty celebration meal and company on Christmas Day that so many of us take for granted.
Christmas can be an especially hard time for many people, both young and old, for a whole host of reasons, and the unprecedented difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020 have only served to magnify the isolation felt so acutely by so many.
The Frome Big Christmas Get-Together lunch usually provides an opportunity for both guests and hard-working volunteers to celebrate the true spirit of Christmas together and to be part of what is usually a very lively and special community event. However, this year, due to the COVID restrictions, the event couldn’t be run as the inclusive social gathering at Frome Football Club in the way planned.
Another Frome-based charity, Active and In Touch (AAIT), this year celebrates 10 years since its formation, primarily to provide year-round support to residents such as those for whom The Frome Big Christmas Get-Together was originally conceived. Their volunteers visit, help and befriend those people who have become lonely, isolated or otherwise out of touch with their communities in Frome and the surrounding villages. AAIT also separately organises its own Christmas Day Lunch gathering for their own regular members which, last year, was held at Frome Masonic Hall, where the Brethren volunteered to serve as waiters.
In order to comply with COVID restrictions, the planned aspirations for this year’s Frome Big Christmas Get-Together and the AAIT Christmas lunches were reworked as a joint venture which also included the Fair Frome Food Bank. Their joint goal was to deliver around 150 Christmas hampers to the homes of those in need. It was also hoped that, if restrictions allowed, the volunteers would also be able to spend-a-while to provide some much-needed company on Christmas morning.
The cost of the project was estimated at £2000, but it was hoped that the generosity of local businesses could effectively sponsor this amount down to around £1500.
The Brethren of Royal Somerset Lodge No.973 have supported Active And In Touch for the past few years and, in 2020, also supported the Fair Frome Food Bank during the national lockdown.
A conversation took place between AAIT and the 973 Lodge Charity Steward, Terry Hulbert, who then set the wheels in motion to seek further support from Frome’s Masons. Their generosity soon resulted in the raising of £1200 in just a few weeks.
This sum was then further enhanced by a very generous donation of £300 from Somerset Provincial Grand Lodge MCF.
John Rawlins, Worshipful Master of Royal Somerset Lodge, together with his wife, Tracey, were very pleased to be able to present a Lodge Cheque for £1500 to Sam Evans, the organiser of the Frome Big Christmas Get-Together.
Royal Somerset Brethren also pledged their services as volunteers for the assembly of the hampers at The Black Swan Gallery on Christmas Eve, as well as assisting with the deliveries on Christmas morning.
One of these Christmas morning deliveries was particularly special. Bro. Andrew Hickling volunteered as a waiter at last year’s AAIT Christmas lunch, held at Frome Masonic Hall. Andrew, who had donned his kilt for the occasion, struck up a rapport with Margaret, one of the guests. The friendship was renewed again this year when Andrew delivered Margaret’s hamper to her home and spent some time with her. Again, he was wearing his kilt, this time at Margaret’s request!
The 2020 Frome Big Christmas Get-Together was a huge success and, as organiser Sam Evans put it, “The fantastic donation from the Masons removed a great load from my shoulders.”
Worshipful Master, John, and the Brethren of Royal Somerset Lodge are delighted to have been able to support this year’s event and wish to express their thanks to everyone who made it such a success.
Hopefully, circumstances will improve sufficiently in time to allow the Lodge to host the 2021 Active and In Touch Christmas Lunch at the Masonic Hall once again.
Thanks go to everyone who worked together in support of this brilliant initiative.
Posted by W. Bro Andy Baird. PGLS ACO SW.