Chefs from the town’s Merville Barracks have volunteered their time to cook dinner once a week at the homeless shelter since 2014, but wanted to make a special effort for Christmas. They raised £950 to decorate the centre, serve up turkey with all the trimmings and buy presents for the residents, such as jumpers and toiletries.
Sergeant Ashley Jacobs said: “Cooking at the Night Shelter is a great way to use our skills as chefs to support people in need in the local community. Our junior chefs gain a different perspective on life from coming here and mixing with the residents.
"We always like to do something special at Christmas and people have been really generous supporting us. We’ve collected much more than we needed to pay for the meal so we’ve got funds to support our ongoing work.”
The voluntary project has also seen the chefs re-organise the centre’s kitchen and stock keeping.
Lance Corporal Sam Godfrey said: “I really enjoy coming to cook at the homeless shelter, it’s good to help people who are less fortunate than we are and just need a little bit of support. To me Christmas is a time for being at home with your family and these guys haven’t necessarily got a family to go to, so tonight we’re their family and we’re putting on a celebration for them.”
Cooking up festive cheer
Marina Woodrow, Colchester Emergency Night Shelter manager, added: “This is the second time that chefs from 16 Air Assault Brigade have organised a Christmas dinner for our residents and it is truly the highlight of the Night Shelter’s festive programme.
"Our residents can find the holiday season difficult and the effort that the chefs put in to creating a warm, welcoming and special experience is beyond words. We are exceptionally grateful for the support we receive from the Army chefs.”