A pensioner who was disappointed after an advert he placed in a newspaper asking for company on Christmas Day received only one response has now been offered the chance of spending 25 December with 100 other guests.
Mr James Gray placed an advert in The Irish Post seeking pensioners to celebrate with him at The Holiday Inn Hotel in Sutton after spending every single Christmas for the last ten years alone.
The retired butler had hoped the advert would attract responses but was left disappointed when only one person replied, who has since cancelled because she is spending the day with someone else.
Now Cllr Jake Morrison for Wavertree in Liverpool is hoping to track down 85-year-old James Gray to invite him to a Christmas day gathering he has organised for pensioners who would otherwise spend the day alone. He has offered to provide travel to and from London and a hotel for Mr Grey.
The pensioner has since said he has been "completely overwhelmed" by the public response since his story was reported, and told The Irish Post he has been inundated with offers from people who would like to be his companion for the day.
“It is so touching to me, after all these years alone, to see this response from people,” he said. “I’m so appreciative of the offers. I should have done this years ago.”
Speaking to The Independent, Cllr Morrison said after announcing the Christmas Day party he has received various offers of help from volunteers, taxi drivers who say they are happy to ferry people to and from the White Christmas Liverpool event, and even NHS nurses offering to give up their Christmas and assist on the day.
Helping the elderly is a cause close to his heart, despite being only 21 years old. He said: “I never wanted to be labelled just young person councillor – I always go to bingo and I’ve noticed that instead of feeling quite jolly at Christmas, some pensioners at Christmas feel a bit depressed, so I’ve been talking to them about it.
"Over previous years we have done stuff around this time, but this year I spoke to a lady who I take out and she said she felt depressed at Christmas. She told me: “It’s hit me this year - my family have all moved on and all I can think about is that I’m my own, when it should be a time to remember and think back about happy Christmas Days in the past," so we decided to organise something actually on the day.
Wavertree Town Hall have agreed to rent their premises on Christmas Day at a 60 per cent reduced rate. Cllr Morrison, who began organising the event seven days ago said: “We put it out on Facebook and it's gone mental on Twitter, we’ve had 60 people say they will give up Christmas, volunteer, drive people around and help.”
Cllr Morrison, who is organising the event with friend Michelle Langan said they are "well on their way" to filling up the places, but there is still room for more guests who would like to attend.
Pensioners at the party will enjoy Christmas dinner together and gifts will be handed out alongside Christmas cards made my local primary school children.
Mr Gray is one of nearly half a million pensioners in the UK who face spending Christmas alone, according to figures released by Age UK.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “This heart-breaking case is all too often a reality for so many older people. It’s really common for feelings of loneliness to be exacerbated during the festive season and a huge concern that the majority of older people facing Christmas alone are aged 80 or over, making them the most vulnerable and at risk.
"We would urge everyone to help tackle this growing problem by calling or popping in to visit their older neighbours or relatives to check they are okay over Christmas."
Cllr Morrison is still looking for Mr Gray. For more information on White Christmas Liverpool, please visit their Facebook page.
The Irish Post is now collecting Christmas cards for Mr Gray from anyone who would like to send him one. If you would like to have a card given to him, send it to: The Irish Post, Suite A, 1 Lindsey Street, Smithfield, London EC1A 9HP.