An invitation has been extended to people waiting for sentencing at the Gore District Court to join those gathered at the Salvation Army Gore Corps weekly lunch on Wednesdays.
The weekly lunch has been hosted for anyone in the community for the past four years and it is well received by the public.
Captain Karl Saunders said he had talked to the Gore court registrar recently and extended the invitation to lunch, and had placed a poster in the courthouse with the open invitation.
The lunches provided a safe, non-judgemental environment for people to enjoy good company and food.
People turned up for the lunches for a variety of reasons, he said.
For many, the meal was a bonus – they were just keen to talk to other people.
“There’s a definite longing to belong. We were made to do life together,” he said.
Some people only came for a cup of coffee and a chat, then leave, while others came for the meal and fellowship, he said.
As in any community, there were people who were lonely.
Just a smile and a cup of coffee could be all that was needed to brighten up someone’s day, Capt Saunders said.
Salvation Army community ministries manager Kaye Byron said there were a lot of lonely people in the community.
While advances in technology had allowed people more options to keep in touch, it had not taken away the need for face-to-face contact, Ms Byron said.
People often closed themselves off to others and tended to battle on without support.
People had been brought up to be self-sufficient and not to ask for help.
But asking for help was not a sign of weakness, Ms Byron said.
“You have to be pretty strong to admit you can’t do it yourself.”
Winter could be a time when people were lonely because it was cold and they did not go out as much as other times of the year, she said.
Last week the lunch attracted 32 people, which was a record, Capt Saunders said.
“It was a very cold day and the people got a hot meal.”