Hundreds receive gifts as part of Christmas Present Appeal

published on 19 Jan 2021

Hundreds of children across Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria woke up to gifts on Christmas morning thanks to The Salvation Army’s Christmas Present Appeal.

For Corps Officers Lieutenants Jonny and Kat Whitmore, who arrived in the town in the summer for their first posting, it has been a busy few months working to ensure that struggling families, isolated older people and rough sleepers have been provided for during the pandemic and in the run up to Christmas.

Working with the local Resilience Hubs, Barrow Borough Council, community groups, schools, Spring Mount Church, Barrow Food Bank, Drop-Zone Youth and Project John, those in need have been provided with wellbeing packs, Christmas hampers and presents.

Lieutenant Jonny said: “It’s been a real expression of the kingdom of God at work in our community as we have seen love, generosity, hope, joy and transformation taking place.

The prayer tree at Barrow Salvation Army
People were invited to write something for the prayer tree

“Thanks to donations from the council’s hardship fund, we were able to buy £20 vouchers for The Entertainer as part of the Christmas Present Appeal. We were going to distribute these rather than gifts this year, but thanks to the generosity of the public, who continued to drop gifts off, we were able to provide a voucher and some presents for those children as well, which is fantastic.

“People wanted to help, and a lot had seen The Salvation Army on the BBC’s The One Show so had donations to give. Lots of local businesses also donated. It was incredible and allowed us to be extra generous this year, at a time when people need it most. We’ve been blown away by it.”

Jonny said the Christmas Present Appeal also helped them be in touch with new struggling families.

Jonny explained: “Families that were referred to us were able to come to the hall and receive the voucher, gifts, a bag with wrapping paper, ‘Kids Alive’ magazine, and some chocolate for the parents.

It’s been a real expression of the kingdom of God at work in our community as we have seen love, generosity, hope, joy and transformation taking place.
Jonny Whitmore

“It allowed us to chat with these families, offering spiritual and emotional support. We will be letting them know about activities, events and help we can offer in the months ahead. They know that our building is a safe place where they can get help.

“We also set up a prayer tree encouraging people to write a prayer to hang on the Christmas tree and the tree was full!”

As well as supporting vulnerable families, due to the pandemic, they saw a lot of people asking for help for the first time.

Jonny said: “One lady was self-employed and had lost all her work due to the pandemic. Because her business was less than two years old, she wasn’t able to access government support. She was embarrassed but so thankful and relieved that we were there to help.

Toys donated to the Barrow Christmas Present Appeal
Presents donated to the Barrow Christmas Present Appeal

“For families where the parents are on furlough, they can just about afford to cover costs, but it’s those extra things, like Christmas and birthday presents that they cannot afford.”

During Christmas week, Jonny and Kat stored emergency food packages for people who found themselves in a desperate situation, and on Christmas Day visited isolated members of their congregation for a chat, something they have been doing regularly during the pandemic.

Jonny added: “We had a phone call from a man in Kent who was unable to visit his mother-in-law because of the restrictions. Her husband had died earlier this year, so we arranged for a Christmas hamper to be delivered and visited on Christmas Day.

“We want to thank Nicola Walmsley, our community mission facilitator, and the volunteers that have helped us this year. It’s been a challenge, but thanks to their support, the help of our community partners and the generosity of those who have made donations, we were able to reach those that need us most.”

A rough sleeper receives hot food and drink

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