Pies fans tuck into Christmas feast

It was a spiritual homecoming for Collingwood fans and volunteers who gathered at the club's old home at Victoria Park for the annual Christmas Day lunch.

Organisers prepared for about 350 homeless and disadvantaged people who sat down to their meals in a marquee set up on the turf.

Salvation Army case manager Lesley Benham said the event began in the early 1990s to support the Collingwood community. She has since volunteered there each Christmas Day with her husband and son.

Ms Benham said Christmas could be an isolating time for people with nothing to do and no family to visit. "Emotions are heightened leading up to Christmas. The loneliness and isolation seems to be accentuated at that time," she said.

But good cheer was plentiful at Victoria Park where volunteers handed out plastic plates piled with ham, coleslaw and roasted vegetables.

A brass band played Christmas carols and the Collingwood club song. About 30 people, mostly Collingwood fans, volunteered to serve food and distribute presents.

Ms Benham said the volunteers also enjoyed working with the needy on Christmas Day. "I think there's a personal happiness that comes with sharing Christmas Day with others, which is what Christmas can be about."

Collingwood FC community director David Emerson said community involvement remained a core part of the club's identity. He said it had been helping the needy since the Depression. "It's our heritage. It's something we never want to lose," he said.

The Salvation Army's Brendan Nottle, commanding officer for Melbourne, said Collingwood fans were thrilled that the lunch was held at Victoria Park after it was moved to the Westpac Centre for several years.

"It's great for Collingwood supporters because it's almost like the return to the spiritual home for Collingwood," he said.

Major Nottle urged other clubs to be more active in their communities to tackle poverty. Further north in South Morang the Plenty Valley Church's lunch attracted about 70 people.

The church has run a Community Kitchen program offering free meals on Thursdays. However, today's lunch was the second time the church had hosted the meal on Christmas Day.

Supervisor Alex Fabiani said he was happy with the turnout. "There are a lot of needy people," he said.

At Federation Square the Orphans Christmas attracted people from across Melbourne. Organiser Joe Norster described the event as "civic, secular and not commercial". He said hundreds of people gathered for picnics and to watch the Muppet Christmas Carol.

"It's the most relaxed I've been on Christmas Day in ages. I think there is a civility to it," he said. "It's a sign of a mature city that allows its citizens to take over a square like that."

The story Pies fans tuck into Christmas feast first appeared on The Age.