AN extra special set of volunteers are giving up their traditional family Christmas to make sure those less fortunate do not spend the festive season alone.

Chief volunteer Christine Connell and her eight willing helpers are opening up Ivy Street Community Centre, in the Infirmary area of Blackburn, on Christmas Day to anyone who is alone or who is struggling to afford a proper festive lunch.

“Families and couples are invited as well as individuals,” said Christine, who has volunteered at the centre for 30 years, alongside her sister Doreen Mitchell.

“For us it’s all about Christmas spirit. We want people to know they don’t have to be alone.

“We have about 20 people who have said they want to come so far but we can cater up to 80 people at once.

“When we first told our members we were having the Christmas lunch they were completely over the moon.”

The centre has been able to afford to put on the event and buy each visitor a present by winning £600 from the Pat on the Back Award, launched by the Local Strategic Partnership, which recognises outstanding and exceptional work in the community.

Staff spent £200 building a new shed on the centre’s allotment and £400 on food and presents.

Retired Christine, who has recently won her battle against breast cancer, has never taken a day of work despite of her illness.

She is even offering to pick up guests ahead of Tuesday’s party.

She said: “I am from a big family and I am used to sharing things and looking after people. I grew up with eight siblings.

“The centre will never turn anyone away. People need to swalllow their pride at this time of year because their is no reason to be alone.

“Our event is free, all we need guests to do is call us in advance and then turn up.”

To get involved people can call the centre on 01254 55977 and leave their name, age and contact number.