By Katie Miles •

Free Food at the Crypt II: A Lunchtime Legends Christmas Special

Following the previous success of our Free Food at the Crypt event last December, not to mention our inaugural Free Food in the Park scheme a few months before that, this winter we resolved to return to St George’s Crypt and rustle up another three course meal for those who need it most.

Championed by our office manager Katie Miles and head of back-end development Jamie Sefton, our seasonal Lunchtime Legends spin-off is fast becoming an annual tradition. Partnering up once again with St George’s Crypt – one of Leeds’ foremost charities for helping homeless, disadvantaged and vulnerable people – we got the ball rolling by reaching out to our friends on social media and asking for donations.

“The season of goodwill was well and truly in force this year,” explained Jamie. “Everyone’s generosity helped us quickly reach our target – and then some! Altogether we were able to raise over £400, all of which was used to buy ingredients for the meal along with a selection of seasonal gifts, including hats and socks to help those facing the prospect of homelessness this winter.”

On the morning of the event we rounded up our volunteers and headed across the city to start prepping for the afternoon’s festivities. “I began working at Parallax back in April, so this was my first time helping out,” said marketing executive Sandra Quantin-Dumont. “I put myself forward because helping people in need is something that’s close to my heart. It’s more important than ever during the colder months, and Christmas can be a very lonely time for people.”

Our menu consisted of leek and potato soup and fresh bread rolls to start, followed by a hearty beef and vegetable stew for the main course and slices of cake for dessert. Everyone pitched in and the carrots were soon chopped, the onions were diced and the spuds were peeled. With the food simmering away on the stove, we decorated every table in the cafeteria with Christmas crackers to add a sprinkling of festive magic.

I really enjoyed helping out on the day. It was an incredibly rewarding experience – everyone was really lovely and it felt great to put a smile on people’s faces.

- Sandra Quantin-Dumont, Marketing Executive

As the clock approached twelve, dozens of visitors began to arrive. The room was filled with the inviting smell of delicious food and the sound of crackers being pulled. Looking out from the serving counter, we were greeted by a sea of multicoloured party hats. Before we knew it, it was time to start serving.

Whilst some of our volunteers dished up warm plates, others weaved their way through the crowd, handing out gifts and stopping for a quick chat with some of Crypt’s regular visitors. It’s safe to say a spell of Christmas cheer had been cast upon us all.

“It was really great to mix with people I wouldn’t normally come across,” said our newly appointed head of design, Phil Millward. “Even though many of them have experienced hard times, there were plenty of happy faces. I just hope they enjoyed eating the food as much as we enjoyed making it!”

Once lunch was underway, we were delighted to welcome Made in Leeds and take a little time out for a quick interview. That night we appeared on their evening bulletin alongside St George’s Crypt head chef David Pilling, who went on to explain how just a few hours of volunteering can make a massive difference.

“After the success of our previous two ‘Free Food’ events, there was a real shared enthusiasm in the office for putting on a third,” said Parallax director Andy Fitch. “Jamie and Katie are the real driving force behind the project, each putting a lot of time and energy into the initiative. But it’s always a spirited effort from everyone involved.”

A huge amount of credit must go to the selfless staff and volunteers at St George’s Crypt who look after people every day of the year. Without their support, we couldn’t have reached out to so many. It was a huge pleasure to work alongside them for a second year running.

- Andy Fitch, Parallax Director

“Events like these give you a real sense of satisfaction,” Andy continued. “We’d encourage anyone who is thinking of doing something similar to just make it happen – if more businesses donated just a small amount of time to similar causes, we’d make an even bigger impact across the community. We’ll certainly be doing it again next year.”