Christmas cheer on the menu at Colony 47 charity lunch in Hobart
Adge Ashcroft gets ready for another Christmas cooking lunch for those in need. (ABC News: Scott Ross)
Adge Ashcroft cooked his first full Christmas lunch for Hobart’s homeless back in 1980.
A 15kg gingerbread house will be among the Christmas treats. (Facebook: Tasmanian Gingerbread)
One day in the lead up to December 25, Mr Ashcroft had asked people down on their luck what they were doing at Christmas, with “just stay in bed” one of the replies offered.
“I said ‘I’ll cook you lunch on Christmas Day’,” he recalled.
That first year he cooked for 18 people.
Thirty-eight years later, the guest list has grown to 350, with Mr Ashcroft still there serving up a roast and a large helping of happiness.
“Why? Because it’s fantastic,” he said. “I love our community and I love the people who struggle through life.”
Mr Ashcroft said he had known some of those coming to Christmas lunch “for 30 years”.
“People who are just lonely, homeless, the disadvantaged. Some of them have a few mental issues, drug problems, alcohol — it’s all that mix of how people cope,” he said.
The charity lunch has an open door policy. Anyone can attend, no matter what their background or reason.
This year organisers are preparing for a full traditional Christmas lunch, which will involve 80 kilograms of meat — including 30 turkeys — 40 kilograms of potatoes, 25 kilograms of pumpkins, 25 kilograms of carrots, 20 kilograms of peas, and 20 huge pavlovas.
There will even be a giant revolving gingerbread house.
Lunch powered by love and community spirit
Colony 47’s Simon Wise said preparations began months ago.
“It’s a lot of food, it’s a lot of organisation, a lot of logistics, a lot of hard work by the chefs, and the team in the kitchen have been doing this for several years as well,” he said.
Putting on the lunch demands a dedicated team of helpers. This year there will be about 150 volunteers working the floor.
“There are many different people from different walks of life,” Mr Wise said.
“We actually have people who are travelling from overseas who come and volunteer on the day. We have families; mum and dad and the children come along and volunteer as well.
“It is quite humbling to have so many different people here from across Tasmania and the world.”
Mr Wise thanked the many Hobart residents who provided food and presents.
“99 per cent of what we serve on the day is donated from individuals in the community and business,” he said.
“So there’s a lot of love and community spirit that goes into putting on the community lunch every year.”
Mr Ashcroft estimated he would have served up thousands of meals over the years, but said he was not keeping track.
“I don’t count them, because it’s about the person that comes through that door and as long as they get a meal and they’ve enjoyed their time,” he said.
Mr Ashcroft said society as whole needed more positivity.
“We tend to focus on the negative of a person’s life instead of … asking ‘has anything good come out of your life? Let’s talk about that’.”
He said he tried to “bring a positivity into their life without talking about ‘you’re a drug addict or alcoholic’ or that sort of thing.”
“We get too negative, we should be more positive about other people’s lives,” he said.
Organisers admit the lunch involves “a lot of logistics, a lot of hard work”. (Facebook: Colony 47)
For Mr Ashcroft, spending Christmas with strangers instead of his own wife and two children has, by his own admission, “been a challenge in some respects”.
“But I’ve got a very understanding wife,” he said.
“It’s about sharing, it’s all about sharing. Maybe I’m a bit selfish as regards to giving more time here than I do at home sometimes, but I’m just passionate about the people out there that are struggling.”
Mr Ashcroft said those attending this year’s Christmas charity lunch were in for treat, with a visit from the big man in red highly likely.
“They walk out of here after lunch and get a hamper,” he said.
And everybody gets a gift from Santa.”