The Acts of Kindness Charitable Trust (AOK), was founded in 2010 by Dunedin residents, Grant and Anne Hardy. The aim of it is to help people of the community who are in need, as well as to provide meaningful, healthy community events that bring people together and help them to work together for the good of others.
In 2013, AOK organized the Dunedin Light Party (formerly known as Glow in the Dark party) for the first time at the Forsyth Barr Stadium. It was very popular, with over 4000 people attending.
For 25 years, Reverend David and Mrs. Jean Brown had organized a community Christmas Dinner in Dunedin, operating out of St Andrew St Church of Christ. In 2014, the couple decided it was time to step away from the event’s management. They felt it had grown beyond the capacity of the St Andrew St church building, and needed a bigger team to operate the event.
At this time, AOK offered to take over the reins, as they felt that it was a great community event. A new trustee had joined the team – John Watson, also a resident of Dunedin.
It is important that the event maintains the same community feel – it is about making sure everyone can have good company at Christmas. (Anne Hardy, 2014)
The venue changed, moving from the St Andrew St church to the Dunedin Town Hall, which could cater for a greater number of people. This obviously necessitated a greater amount of food, and local businesses and farmers pitched in to help, donating potatoes, meat, and finance, and the Dunedin Floral Art Society created centrepieces for the tables. A flood of volunteers came forward to help prepare and serve the food.
The dinner was a great success, with nearly 500 people attending, including passengers from one of the cruise liners docked at Port Chalmers.
Feedback from guests included:
I enjoyed everything starting from the hall decoration, very good organisation, the menu. Everything was fantastic. Finally I felt I am with family whom I missed them too much
The gifts for the children
The company of others. What a lovely special day. Amazing food & hospitality. I am so glad I volunteered – Thank you, Thank you
Tables beautifully laid, welcoming folk, enough food and drink, waiting people fast and efficient, options available for food good.
Awesome ! Enjoyed it so much. Very good food, good music and performers.
Excellent meal, amazing stylish table settings and centre pieces and table cloths. Looked and felt a million dollars. Thank you
Since then, AOK has organized the Dunedin Community Christmas Dinner every December. It continues to be popular, providing a welcome Christmas celebration not only to those who are struggling financially, but also for those who may not have anyone special to share the day with. More businesses and individuals have stepped forward to support and donate, and there has not been any shortage of willing volunteers to serve the guests.
In 2017, AOK was invited to organize a new community event relating to Christmas. This became Christmas in the Stadium. Like the Light Party, it is a family event, a lot of fun for children, but also includes performances by musical artists, especially relating to Christmas.
All these events require volunteer help and we are truly grateful to those who give so much of their time and resources to serve the community.