James Jacob Fellowship - Christmas Lunch

Hi Everyone

Wow. Our sincere thanks to each of you for your contribution towards another heart-warming Christmas day for us all, guests and volunteers alike. The 10th annual James Jacobs Fellowship Christmas Lunch simply could not have happened without your generous participation. It was great to work alongside so many regular supporters, who have become friends (if they weren’t already), while the chance to meet and make so many new friends yesterday was an added bonus.

Each year we are struck by the overwhelming kindness and thoughtfulness of so many people in our community. We are very mindful that a huge number of people touch this event in the months leading up to Christmas, in an ongoing manifestation of our shared community and humanity.

Thank you to Father Don, Christine and the parishioners of St Peters Anglican church for providing this wonderful venue, for your enthusiasm for the event and for your generosity.

Thanks to Lesley and the Homeless Connect team who give us the opportunity to connect and re-connect with potential guests and to those who provide the services they access.

Thank you to MIFQ, the Mental Illness Fellowship of Queensland, and especially to Birgit and Sallie, who co-ordinated the bookings, as well as to Sharon and the Homeless Health Outreach Team at Gold Coast University Hospital for helping spread the word and for your support on the day.

Sincere thanks to Spotlight Theatre for providing the fund-raising opportunity prior to the opening of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and to our wonderful friends and supporters for attending this entertaining production.

Thanks to Diana, who took the time to make up the lolly-bags just before going into hospital for a knee replacement, when she had so many other things requiring her attention.

Thanks to all those who generously made donations, of cash or gifts, of time and of effort.

Thank you to the president and my fellow members of the Rotary e-Club of NextGen for the marvellous Christmas cakes; and to Ingrid, Rick and Lauren for the mouth-watering home-made gifts of cookies and yummies, which went into each bag of presents. The Jewson family really is extraordinary in the ways they always go the extra mile. We are fortunate to have them in our very own club!

Special thanks to the Wrappers, that team of stalwarts who spent so many hours wrapping each gift to make it beautiful, while providing an additional extra-large serving of fun to Christmas.

And then came the dawn of Christmas Day …

Thank you to those who fetched guests, and showed each of them how much you cared in the little extra kindnesses you demonstrated during the day, before taking them safely home again. Thanks to those who helped set up and decorate the hall. Thank you all for making or guests feel welcome and putting them at ease.

Thank you to our wonderful chefs for laying on such a splendid feast. Brian and Margaret and their superstar son David excelled themselves once again and, after seeing its beginnings last year, it was great to see the Wok n Rice van in full swing.  We wish you well in this exciting venture.

Thanks to each of you for your thoughtfulness and for the many ways you cared, for the children and the adults; for the able bodied and those who are disabled or frail; for those who speak very little English as well as those who live down the road; for those who were anxious as well as those who have enjoyed Christmas with us many times before; for those who were with family for the first time in many years and those whose families are far away or with whom they have lost contact. Thank you all for demonstrating the real meaning and spirit of Christmas.

Our very best wishes for the new year and may 2017 bring you joy, peace and fulfilment. We are so lucky to know you.



Jan and Leigh
January 2017



Thank You

Hi Everyone,

Now that we’ve had 24 hours or so to catch our breath, Leigh and I would like to thank you all most sincerely for the exceptional part you played in bringing so much pleasure to so many people on Christmas Day.

I understand we served around 160 meals to guests and helpers and clearing up afterwards was made much easier simply because there was so little left to pack up! Many thanks to those who helped us set up the tables beforehand and clear up afterwards.

A few special mentions are well deserved:
Firstly, we thank the management of MIFQ (Mental Illness Fellowship Queensland), who have supported the event from Day 1. Our heartfelt gratitude goes to Birgit and Julie, who manage the bookings and keep us on track, ably supported by Sharon and the Homeless Health Outreach Team.

To Father John and Christine at St Peter’s Anglican Church in Southport, where would be we be without you, in both senses of the words? Your unfailing enthusiasm and practical support in acting as a collection point and helping spread the word is greatly appreciated.

To all those who helped raise the funds to cover the costs of the Day, through the fund-raising event at Spotlight Theatre as well as through other donations, in cash and in kind, in bags, in puddings, in yummy bags of lollies and other goodies, in books and in shoes, thank you. Your support provides the basis for a genuinely community-oriented event.

To the Wrappers, that team of stalwarts, who helped us wrap approximately 500 gifts, and to Anne who provided the sustenance we all needed to keep us going for many hours of measuring and cutting and wrapping and sticking – a huge thankyou to you all.

To our amazing team of helpers, both young and old, who turned what might have been a lonely day for so many people into a joyous occasion, where every guest was made welcome and enjoyed the camaraderie – thank you.

Thank you to Brian and Margaret, who were assisted behind the scenes by their son David, for again serving up a memorable feast.

Some of our helpers have been with us for many years and we’d particularly like to thank Judy, who has provided legal support as well as friendship and guidance over this time. Another special thank you to Dianne who enthusiastically and tirelessly entertains the children each year and this year came from her sick-bed to do so again. We’d love to mention you all for your special roles, but there are just too many and I hope you know that we appreciate you immensely.

My New Year’s resolution is to learn to count and I promise none of the helpers will have to eat next year’s meal from a takeaway container! My apologies to those who were affected… I have no excuse.

We all heard many stories. Two sisters, who hadn’t spoken for three years, had both booked for the event, not wanting to be alone on the day. They sat together and are family again. A young man sang, for the first time in many years… Others appreciated the spirituality of the occasion and reconnected with their faith. There was laughter and a few tears.

Once again, thank you to you all and we wish you well over the festive season, with good health and happiness in 2015.


Jan and Leigh

January 2015

James Jacob Fellowship Christmas Lunch Fundraiser - Update

Hi Everyone,

Now that the dust has started to settle after our amazing day, Leigh and I would like to express our heart-felt thanks for the part you played in making the 7th annual James Jacobs Fellowship Christmas Lunch such a happy and pleasurable day for so many people.

Once again we had a round 120 guests and volunteers and the meeters and greeters did a splendid job of ensuring all our guests were made welcome from the moment they arrived.

Rotary deserves a big thank-you this year. Thank you to the Rotary eClub of NextGen for your support and special thanks to Ingrid and Lauren for the beautifully presented individual bags of cookies; and we are extremely grateful to Paul from the Rotary Club of Parkwood for your donation of the swag of Christmas cakes and puddings, which were an important – and very tasty - part of the feast.  

Naturally, while many people were involved in the months and days before the event, the practicalities of the day was carried by our marvellous group of volunteers, some of whom have been with us since the beginning of this journey. (We also loved how volunteers Paul and Lisa involved their neighbours this year in making up the Pass the Parcels, which went down a treat.) Other volunteers took care of the transport; trimmed the tree; did a fine job as Santa’s elves; and entertained our younger guests with balloon art and face painting. Our thanks to the entire team for embracing the true spirit of Christmas, for being everywhere, for being such great companions and making people happy, for being so incredibly versatile that everything seemed so natural… 

Special mention and accolades go to Brian, Margaret and David – caterers extraordinaire. We all relished the slap-up meal that had been so lovingly prepared for us and many guests would also have appreciated their takeaways, which gave them one more day with enough to eat and to share. 

We thought this picture of Brian truly encapsulates the spirit of the day and thought we should share it with you.

Our very best wishes for the new year and we would love to work (and play) with you again in 2014,

Jan and Leigh

PS You’ll be glad to know that the creative table settings did not go unnoticed: the green plastic tablecloths will soon be converted to curtains for a few homes!

January 2014

James Jacobs Christmas Lunch: 25 December 2013  

This year on Christmas Day Jan and Leigh Kealton will be hosting the 7th annual James Jacobs Christmas Lunch at St Peter’s Anglican Church hall in Southport, for disadvantaged people, who might otherwise be on their own.

The lunch is held in memory of their beloved son James, who died in 2005.

The guests are people with mental illness and / or substance use issues who are often marginalised by society and who would otherwise be alone on the day. The event is promoted at the annual Homeless Connect Day as well as through NGOs, church groups etc and guest bookings are made during December, through the Mental Illness Fellowship in Southport.

While there are other larger events on Christmas Day; this event specifically caters for people with mental illness, who are often less likely to have families or overt family support. Many guests are single men, who are not well engaged with services or the community, although there is usually a mix of singles, couples and families.

The venue can officially accommodate 80 – 100 people, although last year there were almost 130, including volunteers. Over-catering is planned, and no-one is turned away – although, if all else fails, it might be a case of Family Hold Back!

The format, which has evolved over time, is simple. A fundamental principle is that no-one is expected to give up their own family time on Christmas Day. While Rotary e-Club members will be welcome to participate, there are always people in the wider community whose families may live elsewhere; who themselves prefer not to be alone; and who want to make a difference.

In keeping with the principle of social inclusion, plenty of volunteers are encouraged to participate.  In practical terms, only about six volunteers are required, although there have usually been around 25.  In the past few years a family who does outside catering, has prepared the Christmas feast, which includes a couple of whole hams, turkey, roast veg, Christmas pudding, the works, but no alcohol.

The role of the remaining volunteers is crucial to the success of the event: they need to relax and talk to – or just sit with - other people, without any expectations or preconceived ideas, and everyone should have a good time.  Volunteers and guests are encouraged to sit together for lunch just as they would do in their own families. There is no them or us.

Some volunteers might technically qualify as guests but prefer to see themselves as volunteers; some guests enjoy helping. Wherever possible we encourage everyone to join in with whatever activities might be on offer – there are usually a few volunteers with skills such as balloon art, line-dancing or encouraging a sing-a-long. In general, we aim to keep the lunch as intimate, friendly and relaxed as possible and we promote the cost of admission as A smile and a hug.

Although Leigh and Jan wear distinguishing t-shirts so that everyone knows who to approach if they have questions, there is no overt branding,  either of the other volunteers or the guests (although everyone is given a name tag), because it simply doesn’t matter in which category they may fall. This is something about which Jan and Leigh feel quite strongly, since labels can be very stigmatising. 

Naturally the Rotary banner will be displayed, with great pride.

New volunteers may find the apparent lack of boundaries somewhat challenging at first, but they soon start enjoying themselves: everyone ultimately wants to enjoy themselves with other friendly people at Christmas time.

Leigh always ropes in a few people to help him distribute the gifts. Everyone receives a couple of small gifts (under $10), rather than one bigger gift; because more is better

Jan’s role is to make sure everyone is happy and is as involved as they might like to be: most people recognise that Christmas can be a very emotional time and can bring up painful memories. The Outreach team from the hospital is able to provide additional support if need be and there is also a chill-out area for those who might want some quiet time.

As a fund-raiser, Spotlight Theatre in Ashmore Road have offered us their charity preview night for Phantom of the Opera on Thursday 24 October. Tickets are $20 each and last year the function covered the cost of the lunch, including food and gifts, as well as a small, informal thank-you function for volunteers after Christmas.

Details will be posted on Facebook at the end of September and we hope a few members might be able to join us on the night.

Jan and Leigh are delighted to have the support of the Rotary e-Club of NextGen and naturally they hope to continue leading the event – or serving it - for as long as possible.

6 Aug 2013

For more information please contact our e-Club liaison Jan:  jan@rotaryeclubnextgen.org