Homeless young people from Huntingdon spread Christmas cheer through Salvation Army Christmas appeal

published on 23 Nov 2018

Church and charity calls on local community to donate new unwrapped toys and remember those facing a difficult Christmas

Residents from a Salvation Army hostel in Huntingdon have designed Christmas cards for families and individuals who will be supported by The Salvation Army this December.

Staff and residents at Kings Ripton Court Lifehouse, a residential centre for young people aged 16-25 experiencing homelessness, were all too happy to help when local Salvation Army churches were looking for a special design for their official Christmas card. A competition was organised and the winning design by 20-year-old Louise* will be professionally printed and sent out alongside toy and food parcels and as a thank you to local supporters of The Salvation Army.

Last year, Salvation Army churches in Cambridge, Peterborough and Wisbech provided more than 1,000 toy parcels and nearly 500 food parcels for families in need, while on Christmas Day, Salvation Army volunteers in Cambridge and Peterborough served Christmas dinner to more than 150 people who may have otherwise been on their own.

Alison Metcalfe, service manager of Kings Ripton Court Lifehouse, said: “We are always looking for opportunities to work with local Salvation Army churches on community projects and this was a great way for our residents to show their potential and shine. They were so excited by the prospect of the winning design being professionally printed and sent to other people who are in need this Christmas.

“We regularly offer creative arts sessions at the Lifehouse for the residents, many of whom are facing mental health issue. Volunteers from local Salvation Army churches run sewing and flower arranging classes. We find that art and crafts in particular can help the residents reduce levels of depression and anxiety while increasing their confidence and self-esteem.

“We try and make Christmas extra special at the Lifehouse. Each resident will get a festive food parcel and a present, something which is often made possible through generous donations from the local community.  

“We put the Christmas decorations up together, we take the residents and staff out for a meal together, we go ice skating, have movie nights and baking sessions and even sing carols round the tree with the Salvation Army brass band from Cambridge. Christmas Day includes the traditional lunch for all the residents who can’t be with family and friends.

“When the adverts and shops are all shouting about the importance of family, we try and be a family to those in our care.”

Members of the public in Cambridgeshire are encouraged to support The Salvation Army this Christmas by either donating to the church and charity’s Christmas Appeal, which helps keep homelessness services like Kings Ripton Court Lifehouse open, or by adding an extra toy to their shopping list and taking it to The Salvation Army on Mill Road in Cambridge, Bourges Boulevard in Peterborough or John Thompson Road in Wisbech. The Salvation Army will then distribute the toys to families struggling to buy a gift for their children with the help of social services to make sure there is a small surprise under their Christmas tree this year.

Major Gary Chaundy, church leader of Peterborough Citadel Salvation Army, said: “During the festive season, when many are enjoying celebrations with friends and family, others are struggling to make ends meet.

“The Christmas Story inspires us as a church to reach out to those in need, so we, along with our friends in Cambridge and Wisbech, are running a Christmas present appeal again this year to ensure every family can enjoy some festive treats.

“It’s wonderful to see children’s faces light up when they open their Christmas presents. If you have children, grandchildren, or young people you support, think of what they might like in their Christmas stocking and consider buying an extra present and donating it.  We’re asking for brand-new toys or gifts so the families we support feel extra special.”

For anyone wanting to celebrate Christmas with The Salvation Army, Salvation Army churches are holding carol services throughout December and Salvation Army brass bands will be carolling in the streets in Cambridge and Peterborough.

Contact your local Salvation Army for more information - find your local Salvation Army centre

To donate to The Salvation Army’s Christmas Appeal, visit salvationarmy.org.uk or call 020 7367 4800.