When burglars struck at a care home in the local community, it threatened to ruin the festive season for dozens of elderly people.
The money collected by the Waterside Centre in South Norwood was taken by the thieves just weeks before Christmas, meaning staff were faced with the prospect of cancelling their Christmas dinners for the over 50s.
But Crystal Palace Football Club stepped in to save their Christmas, as members of the playing squad rallied round to raise the vital funds needed to make the festive feast happen.
Palace striker Aaron Wilbraham attended the afternoon to meet the local elderly people who had been helped by the football club’s kind donation.
He said: “It’s nice of the boys to chip in and help out after what happened with the burglary. Everyone helped out and everyone’s enjoyed themselves. There was a great atmosphere and it was a great occasion for the over 50s – a nice meal together as a group and spreading the Christmas spirit.
“It’s good to get out into the community and into the schools and doing things like this. It’s not just about turning up on a Saturday and playing football. If you can go and show people that the club cares about the community, it shows a different aspect to Crystal Palace.
“When we arrive on a matchday, we usually have to go straight into the changing rooms, then out onto the pitch and you don’t get that interaction with the fans, but when you come and do appearances like this, you get to speak to people, get their views and they get to see a different side to the players.”
Natalie Fernandez, manager of the Waterside Centre, said: “Palace got involved and they have been absolutely fantastic. We had the break-in and we were really stuck as to what to do to buy the food.
“Our members are elderly, most of them are 70 plus and for a lot of them this is the only chance they are going to get to have a proper Christmas lunch.
“Crystal Palace stepped in. I sent them a long list of what we’d need. They brought all the food, they provided some drink and we had a fantastic time thanks to them.
“For some of our members this place is their only social interaction, they don’t see anybody else unless they come to our clubs. It’s really important for them to be able to get together at least once a year and have a good Christmas dinner with their friends.
“Having Aaron here has absolutely made their day and made their Christmas for a lot of them. People said to me what a fantastic time they’d had and it was the icing on the cake for Aaron to come down.”