CHRISTMAS for many is all about spending quality time with loved ones, giving and receiving presents and stuffing stomachs full of delicious, gourmet food.
For others, like Brian Tuana, it is all about giving their time to people whose experience at Christmas can be very different.
Traditionally spending the day with his family and remembering loved ones who have passed away, Mr Tuana said he decided to volunteer on Christmas after hearing the story of Brother Ignatius Hannick, the man who started a soup kitchen to feed the homeless in 1972, an enterprise which would eventually turn into the St Patrick’s Community Support Centre.
“I decided to volunteer at St Pats because Brother Hannick, who established the kitchen, was a kind and thoughtful person who set an example of love for his fellow man,” he said.
“Also I thought I had better make up for my sinful ways and wear a hair shirt once a week and put on a doleful face.
“Sadly I have a good time laughing with the other volunteers so I keep forgetting to be repentant.”
Now with many treasured memories from his time volunteering, Mr Tuana said it was definitely something others should try.
“The best part of volunteering at Christmas or any time is when Stumpy, a long time client at meal times, comes to the counter to give his assessment of the lunch with a mark out of ten,” he said.
“It is a joyous day when he awards you with twelve out of ten.
“I would recommend it to others to try as where else can you do your duty as a Christian and perfect the art of washing a pile of pots in less than five minutes before the peas boil over on the stove.”
St Patrick’s and their volunteers work hard to bring a bit of joy to those who need it most at this time of the year.
More than 300 food hampers packed with goodies are handed out, and those doing it tough are treated to not one, but two Christmas celebration lunches.
St Patrick’s chief executive Steve McDermott said many who visited did not have family or friends to celebrate with, so they and their volunteers made sure they had somewhere to go where they could still “feel a part of things”.
“It’s a lot of fun; we decorate the centre with Christmas trimmings, the Starlight Hotel Choir sing Christmas carols and we have gifts for all of our clients,” he said.
“People really enjoy themselves, it’s a very jolly atmosphere with lots of talking and laughing and we always get a lot of positive comments and a lot of Christmas jokes.
“It’s important to point out that it’s not only people who are homeless who come to St. Pat’s, it’s also people in need, people who socially isolated, or people suffering from other forms of disadvantage
“One of St. Pat’s key functions within the Fremantle community is to provide a safe and welcoming space for people who have nowhere to go and this is never more important than at Christmas time.”
St Patrick’s is collecting food hampers and donations to help their work this Christmas.
Visit www.stpats.com.au for more information.