Single mum organises special Christmas dinner for 70 strangers
Taylor Barnes, 21, dreaded Christmas as a child and her heart sank every time she heard festive songs on the radio.
Growing up in the care system, she felt left out of the celebrations, and last year faced spending December 25 alone with just her young daughter, Harper.
But she was inspired to organise a massive dinner for 60 people feeling equally lonely, and saw the joy it brought them.
Taylor, who is six-months pregnant with her second child, pulled out the stops and recruited Scottish comedian Hardeep Singh Kohli as her head chef for the day.
They spent Christmas Eve preparing a three-course meal for 70 guests, including elderly widowers, single parents, struggling families and people living in a homeless shelter.
And on Christmas Day everyone sat down at Gibbs Hill Community Centre, in Greenock, Inverclyde, to pull crackers, tell jokes, and eat a three-course meal.
Taylor said: “We did the prep on Christmas Eve, but it was a bit stressful trying to make sure everything was OK.
“Everybody got presents - this year I went to Boots, and spent £10 per person.
“There was a three-for-two offer on so I got presents for families, gift sets for adults, a selection box and candy canes.
“Some families coming this year were quite stuck - that’s just the way life is.
“Last year there was a woman who said it was her first Christmas in 25 years.
“It was pure emotional seeing her joy on the day.
“I bumped into her in town in November and she said how much she was looking forward to it, but sadly she passed away.”
Taylor had hoped to double her numbers for yesterday’s dinner but felt she couldn’t after finding out she is expecting a baby boy, who she will name Presley, in March.
She said her hormones were “sky-high” but was determined not to let that get in the way - and found that many local businesses were willing to help.
Guests ranged in age from a one-year-old tot, to 82 - and the majority of diners were elderly people, many of whom were widowed.
A single dad travelled from Glasgow with his four-year-old son, and 17 people living in a homeless shelter were invited.
Diners enjoyed a three-course meal was served, starting with lentil soup and crusty bread, followed by steak pie with roast potatoes, parsnips, sprouts and gravy.
A generous bakery made an enormous Christmas cake and a nearby cafe donated homemade ice-cream.
After the meal, everyone got on the dancefloor for a disco, and entertainment was provided by talented singers who belted out Christmas songs.
Taylor made sure everyone had a gift to open, which she bought from the three-for-two range in Boots.
Her two-year-old daughter Harper was too young last year to realise the magic that her mum was bringing to lonely people in the community.
But this year Taylor sat her down and told her about their special day.
She said: “I was looking forward to it this year - the first time, I didn’t know how it was going to go.
“I think every place needs something like this, I can see the difference it makes.”