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Man buys 30 pub meals for elderly at risk of a lonely Christmas

Jeremy Buitenhuis is paying for 30 meals at the Baker's Arms in Harkstead to help those at risk of loneliness this Christmas. He is pictured with Baker's Arms landlady Lybi Bullock. Picture: JEREMY BUITENHUIS

Jeremy Buitenhuis is paying for 30 meals at the Baker's Arms in Harkstead to help those at risk of loneliness this Christmas. He is pictured with Baker's Arms landlady Lybi Bullock. Picture: JEREMY BUITENHUIS

Archant

It's the season of joy and goodwill to others, so to Suffolk businessman Jeremy Buitenhuis the thought anyone might spent it alone seemed wrong.

Jeremy Buitenhuis is paying for 30 meals at the Baker's Arms in Harkstead to help those at risk of loneliness this Christmas. He is pictured with Baker's Arms landlady Lybi Bullock. Picture: JEREMY BUITENHUISJeremy Buitenhuis is paying for 30 meals at the Baker's Arms in Harkstead to help those at risk of loneliness this Christmas. He is pictured with Baker's Arms landlady Lybi Bullock. Picture: JEREMY BUITENHUIS

So the accountant has bought and paid for 30 meals at a county pub - and is looking for people who can help to fund another 10 Christmas Day meals for the lonely.

Mr Buitenhuis - who runs the firm An Accounting Gem - approached Lybi Bullock, landlady of the Baker's Arms in Harkstead, after hearing how increasing numbers of people are likely to spend the festive season alone in Suffolk.

With a rising elderly population in the county, Age UK Suffolk has warned that loneliness is likely to increase - with chief executive Andrew Gardner even warning earlier this year that it will "kill more people than cancer and smoking".

MORE: Suffolk's next biggest killer? Fears drastically ageing population will spark sharp rise in deaths by loneliness

Jeremy Buitenhuis is paying for 30 meals at the Baker's Arms in Harkstead to help those at risk of loneliness this Christmas. Picture: JEREMY BUITENHUISJeremy Buitenhuis is paying for 30 meals at the Baker's Arms in Harkstead to help those at risk of loneliness this Christmas. Picture: JEREMY BUITENHUIS

"I'm in a very fortunate position of being able to enjoy a magical Christmas with family and friends every year, but I know that that just isn't the case for so many," said Mr Buitenhuis.

"I was out for a walk one day, thinking about what small contribution I could make to create a different festive experience for some of the people who would otherwise be lonely, so I decided to approach the landlady at my local pub, and she was fully behind the idea."

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However he has also appealed for those with the time and transport to escort each of the dining guests to and from the venue on the day.

"To spread the word and extend the initiative even further, I began talking to the founders of Shout About Suffolk at their entrepreneurs' lab in Melton," he said.

"They're now throwing their weight behind helping me to fund additional places, and identify people who can effectively be a Christmas Day taxi service for our dining guests."

A crowdfunding page has been set up, while there is also a Facebook event page to help find drivers.

Julia Durrant, from Shout About Suffolk, said: "The spirit of working together to achieve good for the community, is what we're all about here at Shout About, so Jeremy's idea felt really appealing to us, and we're keen to do all we can to help.

"We now really want people to spread the word and enable us to fund more places, and to cover the transport requirement on the day.

"This will not only benefit the diners on the day, but it's a known fact that volunteering is great for mental wellbeing, so we see it as a win win for many."

To offer your help and support, call Mr Buitenhuis on 01473 744700.

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