A CHRISTMAS dinner for those who are usually home alone during the festive season may not go ahead this year if volunteers and organisers cannot be found.
After 26 years of bringing a little spirit to hundreds of people on Christmas Day, Door Of Hope church's pastor Dave Woodward and his family have decided to retire from organising the event.
"It started as a vision for my own family because we were here away from extended family so we decided to open it up," Pastor Dave said.
"It was fairly small and my wife and I and our two kids, who were in primary school, ran it.
"We had about 35 at our first dinner and it stayed about 35 to 45 for a number of years."
Over the years the numbers increased, sitting at 150 people for a few years but then attracting 200-plus people during the past few years.
One of the major jobs involves taking bookings, which Pastor Dave said had been difficult at times.
"People would book and not show up and people would show up without booking," he said.
"Last year we had more bookings than we had seating places - we had seating for 215 with over 220 booked.
"And people who phoned up to book, I had to turn them away and then people didn't show up and we could have had them.
"I had one call where they said they were on their own and I had to say I had more bookings than seats at that moment."
When things got tough Pastor Dave would remember those who appreciated his efforts.
"My most vivid memory is of a guy in his mid-30s - typical Aussie with the singlet and stubbies and thongs, hairy shoulders and tattoos," he said.
"That was back in the days when Solly's was in Maryborough and I knew what gifts we had because we were really limited on budget - it was a $2 Solly's gift.
"He was sitting there with his present unwrapped and said: 'I'm not going to unwrap this today, I feel really good today so I am going to save it for a day when I am really down.'
"Then he said 'this is the first Christmas present I have had in seven years'.
"Every year that I kind of throw my hands up I thought about that guy
When the pastor and his family made the decision not to run the free Christmas dinner this year, they booked their long-service leave.
This year will be their second holiday in 26 years.
"We decided last year that 2016 would be the last year that I would run it," he said.
"It is a huge undertaking - it has been really rewarding, particularly the people who come up and say they would have been on their own had it not been for this."
Through the year the church has appealed for somebody to take over the running of the event.
"If somebody is willing to take it up, I will sit down with them and go through it.
"There is still time for people to get the event happening this year.
"We have started in mid-November."
Financial and food donations were what made the dinner possible.
The church received donations of gift cards, hampers, fruit and veg and at one point free cooked chickens.
"Our biggest supporters have been Golden Chicken. The first few years they gave us the chicken, then they offered us one whole chicken for every one we bought, effectively half price which was marvellous."
Door of Hope spends about $2500 in addition to what it has been given.
"I am still not convinced the need has got any greater just because the numbers have gotten greater, because of the families and multiples who have come in," Pastor Dave said.
"I'm not sure the number of people who are on their own has changed but I don't know that for sure.
"There is still a need for it - it's still a lonely time for people.
"It's been a good run and i will support anybody who wants to take it up."
For more information phone Door of Hope on 4121 6822, visit Facebook or 569 Kent St, Maryborough.