On Christmas Eve, The Dalesman Country Inn in Sedbergh will once again be welcoming a group of veterans and their families for a festive break.

The Dalesman’s ‘Christmas for Veterans’ initiative was born in 2017 and has since become an important part of the calendar for the pub and the local community.

The Dalesman are working with specialist charities, Tom Harrison House and Veterans HQ Liverpool and Brian Capstick (an Army veteran and founder of veterans charity, The Rawthey Project) as well as members of the community to facilitate a welcoming stay over Christmas for veterans who have suffered with addiction.

Owner of The Dalesman, Mike Garnett said, “This will be the fifth year that we’ve had veterans to stay over Christmas. After the uncertainty that Covid brought, we’re looking forward to a more uncomplicated year where we can offer a relaxed festive itinerary for the veterans and their families.”

This year the initiative is welcoming veterans who have come through the Tom Harrison House addiction recovery programme. The programme is designed specifically for those who have served and later struggle to engage with mainstream, civilian rehabilitation services. The charity also offers ongoing family support to ensure that, post-programme, the family can work together in support of their recovery.

Ian McArthy of Tom Harrison House said, “ The Dalesman’s ‘Christmas for Veterans’ initiative will really help bring together couples and families who are in need of some support, for a special experience.

At a time when everyone is under financial pressure and there’s a thousand reasons to say no, Mike and the team at The Dalesman are going above and beyond to help others, which is admirable”.

During their stay the group will attend a festive church service and enjoy a stroll around the village on Christmas Eve, tuck into a delicious home-cooked lunch at The Dalesman on Christmas Day and on Boxing Day they will be invited to hand out bacon sandwiches and coffees with their hosts as the local hunt come through the village with the hounds.

Brian Capstick who works alongside The Dalesman to co-ordinate the ‘Veterans at Christmas’ initiative said, “Over the past few years as the local community have become more aware of what we’re doing, the social value has increased. People will go out of their way to welcome and engage with the veterans where they can, whether it be offering a babysitting service so couples can enjoy a meal on their own, donating gifts for the families or helping the kitchen team at The Dalesman to serve up dinner.

Through their specialist charitable work, Brian and Mike are now engaging with senior military representatives to look at how support can be improved for veterans struggling with the transition to civilian life.

Brian explained, “We can’t underestimate the value of being embraced by a community. The veterans that come to us see how the community in Sedbergh comes together and they don’t feel so isolated; it gives them hope. Social isolation is often linked to alcoholism and what we’ve seen is that rather than being counter-intuitive, being in a friendly pub environment in a supported way is actually beneficial for many”.

Speaking about the impact that the initiative has made on him, Mike said, “That first year I had no idea what to expect, neither did my family but they’ve been very supportive of it. This year we even have our extended family coming so we’ll create one big dinner table that we can all sit around together on Christmas Day.

“Doing what we do has undoubtedly changed Christmas for us but we wouldn’t go back. We feel it’s important to direct your generosity where you can at Christmas, particularly in times like these when lots of people are struggling!”

2022 will be the fifth year of running Christmas for Veterans and Mike, Brian and their supporters hope to continue the tradition for many years to come.

To get involved or find out more contact Mike via info@thedalesman.co.uk

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