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Over 300 hampers ready for those in need

Johnny Bugeja

Approximately 350 hampers will be handed out on Friday to people in need on the Rock this Christmas following large donations from various organisations.

At St Theresa’s church, Fr Charlie Azzopardi and his team of helpers have been working in conjunction with other entities in Gibraltar, such as Eroski and Coviran to prepare food hampers.

On average, each of the homes that are in need will receive four bags of food, which include fresh vegetables, breakfast cereals, grains and treats such as chocolates and crisps, fare most people enjoy at this time of the year. In addition, some essential toiletries have also been added.

“It is a little bit of ad hoc as we go along but we are going to try and have Christmas as normal as possible, but at the same time I am conscious of the restrictions that are on at the moment. But it won’t stop us from doing the good work that we have been trying to do over many years,” said Fr Azzopardi.

The food hampers have been organised differently this year. Normally there would be a lot of volunteers involved, but this year this is restricted due to social distancing and social bubbles.

“We are relying more on the staff from the places we buy from, so they have been doing the bulk of the work,” he said.

The distribution of the hampers will take place on Friday morning, starting at 10am and the team aim to keep a socially distanced queue. By giving the hampers a week before Christmas, it enables the receivers to have everything ready for Christmas Day itself.

The number needing hampers has not increased this year. Should some be left over on Saturday, it will be distributed to people in need from Spain who come to the church looking for help.

“We also try and keep enough food to help those who come in January needing a bit more,” said Fr Azzopardi.

Soup Kitchen

This year the soup kitchen will also be different and no sit-down lunch will be provided to those who need it.

Instead, people will come to the new location at St Theresa’s Church and receive food to take away. The soup kitchen has been providing a takeaway service to those in need since Covid-19 hit the Rock in March.

“We will be giving them food and presents on Christmas Day and enough food for them on Boxing Day,” said Fr Azzopardi.

“And the Methodist Church will be looking after the meals on Sunday and on Monday. So they will give them double on Sunday.”

“We normally give them double on Fridays to cover for Saturday.”

On Christmas Day, the soup kitchen will feed between 30 and 40 people. At present, the soup kitchen feeds 60 to 70 people daily.

“Some of [the daily users] will be getting the food hamper, so those who get the food hamper will not be coming on Christmas Day,” he said.

The soup kitchen will not be delivering food to anyone that is been taken care of by the Care Agency who provide a meals on wheels service.

Referring to people who wish to help out at Christmas time in the soup kitchen, he said that, due to Covid-19, this year they will be unable to.

Christmas Mass

Fr Azzopardi noted that he has been working with the director of public health on how to make Christmas safe.

“I think they are doing great work and I respect what they are doing.” But there are some headaches ahead.

“We don’t know if we are having Midnight Mass, always with the worry that a big crowd will turn up and then we [will] have to send them away and that is not what we want,” he said.

It has been decided that the usual children’s mass for Christmas will not be going ahead. This mass is usually very busy, with dancers and a choir taking part.

“Midnight Mass has traditionally been a very important family occasion, this year there are a lot of people who want to come and say a big thanks to God,” said Fr Azzopardi.

“Because, in the circumstances we have had unfortunately a few deaths recently due to Covid, but in the big picture it is nothing when compared to what other people have had.”

“One is one too many, but the fact is we have to also be realistic, businesses that have had to close down, unemployment, all those things are affected by Covid and now we have the phantom of the opera awaiting us on the first of January, Brexit. What is going to happen, how it will affect us, we do not know.”

“We will have to commend ourselves to the Lord and I am always optimistic. We are certainly very blessed; I do not know why. Maybe it is compensation for the Levante, but we are very blessed and I am sure something good will come and we will survive,” he added.

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