Central Taxis pledge free fares to festive meals for Edinburgh’s vulnerable

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A fleet of taxi drivers are giving up time with their families to help spread festive cheer to hundreds of vulnerable or isolated people across the Capital.

Drivers from Central Taxis are to take time out of their celebrations to ferry folk being treated to a slap-up dinner by Hearts and Hibs, to and from Tynecastle and Easter Road on Christmas Day.

Hearts and Hibs players are supporting the festive meals campaign

Hearts and Hibs players are supporting the festive meals campaign

Kind-hearted volunteers will be serving a full traditional dinner, complete with gravy, turkey, vegetarian treats and Brussels sprouts to 300 people who would otherwise be facing a bleak time.

The event is part of the Edinburgh Cheer campaign which is running through the festive season with Hibs, Hearts, NHS Lothian, Network Rail, Tesco and the Scottish Government once again aiming to make the city and the Lothians the Capital of Kindness.

Central Taxis director Tony Kenmuir said it was a “no brainer” to get involved with the event for the second year running.

He told the Evening News: “We have nearly 1100 taxi drivers in the company and around two thirds of them will be working on Christmas Day. We decided to get involved last year because it is such a great idea and we were delighted to get behind it. We didn’t need to think about it.

“We’ll be making a couple of hundred journeys and it’s fantastic that the drivers have got behind this. We all have families and friends and do what everyone else does on Christmas Day but causes such as this really capture the imagination. Some drivers will be out all day but others will be coming out especially for these jobs which is fantastic.

“Christmas is a time of year when those living in isolation feel it more sharply. If we can help some people feel part of something and get into the festive spirit then that can only be a good thing.”

Around 200 guests are expected at Easter Road with another 100 to attend Tynecastle to enjoy the free festive 
meal and good company in the main executive suite at the stadium.

The clubs have been working closely with other organisations across the city to invite those who would benefit from spending the afternoon surrounded by others with the majority of attendees expected to be over the age of 65.

It is a repeat of last year’s roaring success when the stadiums were opened up to those who might otherwise have been on their own or had less to look forward to than other people.

They were royally fed and entertained at Easter Road and Tynecastle by our Edinburgh Cheer volunteers who will be out in big numbers again this year to enable the heartwarming event to take place.

The meal highlights the incredible strength of community spirit in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Leeann Dempster, Hibs chief executive, said: “This will be the third year that we - with our GameChanger partners- have opened up Easter Road Stadium on Christmas Day.

“We are hugely grateful for the great support of all our partners in the Christmas Day event, particularly NHS Lothian and Tesco. It’s a big part of Edinburgh Cheer and a day we all look forward to.

“We expect around 200 to sit down to a wonderful lunch, great chat and to just enjoy being with other people on a special day.”

Ann Budge, Heart of Midlothian FC Chairwoman and Big Hearts Trustee said: “The festive season is a happy time for most of us, but it can be challenging for individuals and families affected by social isolation.

“This Christmas Day we are opening our stadium to ensure those most vulnerable in the community get to enjoy a festive meal and make great memories of this special day at Tynecastle Park.

“It marks our second year leading ‘Edinburgh Cheer’ with Hibernian and Tesco and I would like to thank Big Hearts for their hard work in making this partnership a great success.”

Craig Wilson, Big Hearts General Manager added: “Big Hearts supports socially isolated people all year long and we know that Christmas is one of the most difficult times.

“Following the positive outcomes from last year, we are delighted to host our second Christmas day dinner at Heart of Midlothian with the invaluable contribution from our Edinburgh Cheer partner Tesco and the SPFL Trust.

“As a charity it’s fantastic to be in the position to offer so many vulnerable people the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a festive environment, and particularly welcome individuals over 65 who are living alone or away from family.”