Team Oxford Blog: A Place at the Table Place at the Table By Hannah Mackie Christmas is a time for coming together; for spending time with loved ones and in-law’s. For some of us however Christmas can be a tough one. If it’s been a difficult year dealing with prospects of homelessness and living in poverty, the festive season could be a less appealing time and one that you might prefer to just pass by. That was why Aspire wanted to make sure that all the people they supported this year, alongside clients of neighboring homeless services, had a ‘Place at the Table’ and a party to look forward to, with a warm welcome and plenty of pigs in blankets to go around. So that’s just what they set about doing! With their Christmas Appeal to raise the funding in full swing and a reservation for 100 at Yarnton Home and Garden Centre booked, Aspire reached out for help to achieve this wonderful event with the support of local businesses. Stepping up to the plate (food pun intended) came Blenheim Palace, Bouygues Energies and Services alongside Oxfordshire County Council providing funding and volunteer support, with presents for clients being provided by Chipping Norton School and Oxford Local Enterprise Partnership. The day arrived and the weather outside was frightful, but the spirit inside the transport coach full of guests was delightful (reader, I’m not sorry). The small army of volunteers arrived early for a last minute bit of present wrapping before arrivals and then it was on with the festivities! Guests arrived to a drinks reception (delicious spiced orange punch anyone?) and a restaurant decked out in full festive attire. Once present wrapping duties were complete volunteers were tasked with mingling with the guests to make sure everyone felt welcomed and were included in chats and general merriment! A social event of this size can be an intimidating prospect for many so it was important that no one would be left feeling left out or, well, just a bit awkward! Once seated everyone enjoyed a magnificent turkey dinner with all the trimmings and we can happily report that the roast potatoes were crispy along with plenty of extra gravy! For dessert there was the traditional Christmas pudding with fresh custard and if that wasn’t enough there was a second round of pudding with mince pies and fresh cream thick enough to stand your spoon in, delicious! And let’s not forget the crackers and party poppers for good measure. The evening rounded off with a thank you from Aspire’s CEO Paul Roberts and then the giant pile of presents full of goodies was distributed to guests. Chipping Norton school did a fantastic job of assembling gift boxes full of items including, chocolates, socks, scarves, hats, toiletries, books and more. The school was so successful that there were multiple gifts per person to give out so everyone left with full bellies and armfuls of treats to take home with them. This event would not have been possible without the generosity of volunteers and businesses coming together to fulfil the aim of ensuring absolutely everyone had a Christmas party to enjoy. Thanks to the many volunteers joining in who ensured the atmosphere was warm and jolly, the evening went off without a hitch. It’s this coming together to achieve amazing things which is what Team Oxford is all about. It was never just about the food, it was about feeling a part of something, a part of a community that mattered because no one should be alone any time of year. In the New Year Team Oxford will be launching with the ultimate aim to encourage more residents and businesses to join up for a healthier and happier Oxford. Will you be a part of it? Contact Hannah Mackie to find out how you can get involved.