COMMUNITY scheme Fill the Gap is celebrating six years of serving lunches and helping villagers make new friends in Burbage.

Every Thursday between noon and 2pm, villagers can head to the All Saints Church Centre and enjoy a free lunch while socialising.

After a break in August the scheme restarted last Thursday and the church centre was once again packed with residents of all ages.

Organiser Judy Price has a team of 18 volunteers who prepare the lunches on a rota basis. She said: “The church is very involved with Fill the Gap.

“It is its way of reaching into the community and all the volunteers are church- goers but about 75 per cent of the people that come aren’t connected to the church.

“Every week we have about 40-plus people stop for lunch.

“About half a dozen people come every week and then there are others who come once or twice a month.

“It’s a great way for new people to the village to meet others; it’s rare there is ever someone sitting on their own.

“What is great is that it’s a mix of ages. Often with these things there are a dozen old ladies sat around but that isn’t the case here.”

From April to September Fill the Gap serves a ploughman’s lunch and for the rest of the year it serves soup.

The food is paid for by donations from visitors and any leftover money is given to charity.

So far Fill the Gap has split £5,000 between the Trussell Trust and the Salvation Army.

Stephen Yates, 37, has been going to Fill the Gap for 18 months.

He said: “I’ve met new people here and it’s just a really good place to come and talk to people and see what they have been getting up to.”