PETER Benson is a man who sums up the spirit of Christmas.

For half a decade the 89-year-old has provided a free Christmas lunch for Bordon and Whitehill residents who would otherwise be alone on December 25.

But as preparations ramp up for next Monday’s feast in Whitehill village hall, the selfless volunteer fears this year’s lunch could be the last unless an apprentice comes forward.

“This is maybe my last year organising the Christmas lunch because I’m getting knackered,” said Mr Benson.

“It would be a shame for it to stop because it brings joy to so many people.”

Mr Benson has recruited a team of volunteers to prepare and cook the three-course meal with all the trimmings, with entertainment, a raffle and a quiz all being served up to grateful residents.

After his wife died the RVS Lunch Club volunteer wanted to do something to give him “a sense of purpose” and liked the idea of helping the town’s less connected at Christmas.

The annual Christmas Lunch he oversees is akin to a military operation with 60 people being served and 10kgs of turkey crowns being cooked by a team of chefs. All the food is donated with vegetables being gifted by Fresh Start.

He said: “This year is shaping up really well because we’ve got exactly the right number of guests and helpers.

“This is the fifth dinner we’ve held. We held the first just before Covid and the second one we morphed into a delivery service, which was really popular, but there was a lot of scrambling around.”

He added: “I wanted to start something to give me a sense of purpose and the first year we got some grants through the council to get it started.”

Peter says the feedback he receives from his team and diners is “always very encouraging” but he’s no longer the springiest of chickens. So he’s looking for an apprentice to take over the kitchen next year, otherwise the lunch might be the last.

He said: “I was hoping to find someone else to take it on and work with me for a year but no-one seems to want to do it despite the large number of people who help.

“What I really want is an apprentice who can take it forward. I can’t go on forever.”

If you are interested in stepping into Peter’s shoes then call either 01420 475993 or email [email protected]