Stories of Christmas hope

This year Christmas will be a struggle for many, but The Salvation Army is delivering Christmas joy to vulnerable families and older people as it does each and every year.

Christopher's Christmas story

Christopher had always dreamt of spending Christmas in a proper home with a Christmas tree and decorations.

Meet Cheryl

Cheryl has special memories of Christmas with the Salvation Army last year: “It was the first time that we’d felt part of family, surrounded by love."

Meet Mick: Looking forward to a family Christmas

“I’m looking forward to Christmas this year thanks to The Salvation Army because I will be able to spend it with my family.”

Meet Sophie

“When I put money in The Salvation Army collecting tin last Christmas, I never thought I would need their help.”

Latest stories from around the territory

wc 21 December

  • From Slough, Berkshire

Slough-based toy manufacturer, Mattel has joined others in the local community in donating gifts to The Salvation Army. 

Church officers, Lieutenants Roelof and Tanya Vermeulen said: “We are delighted to receive the kind donations from our community together with Mattel. It really was a welcome addition to us and helped boost our capacity to give to children at Christmas-time. Thank you to everyone that donated a gift”.

One of the representatives of the referral agencies who pass the toys onto families said: “Two of these children went into foster care last night and one was given some dolls who he promptly named, and clearly loved immediately, and the other was given the Barbie truck, and some barbies. 

“Apparently, their faces lit up and the Assistant Head teacher who was with them said that it made her want to cry, what perfect timing the toys had come at and the disbelief and joy on the children’s faces that the toys were for them.  These particular children have never had toys at home”.

13 pallets of toys were donated to The Salvation Army by Mattel, the toy manufacturer.
13 pallets of toys were donated to The Salvation Army by Mattel, the toy manufacturer.
  • From Ilford, East London 

When four children from the same family in Ilford heard that some other children in their area might go without a present this Christmas, they asked their mum what they could do to help.

The children’s mum told them about The Salvation Army’s Christmas Present Appeal and how they could buy gifts to donate which would be passed on to local children most in need. 

Twelve-year-old Jia, Karina aged 10, Karanveer aged 5 and Jasleen who has just turned four, all wanted to use some of their pocket money to support the appeal so the next day they went shopping specially to choose toys, stationery and a few sweet to take to Ilford Salvation Army. 

Mum Hardeep said:

“The number one thing I try to teach my children is to help others.  My children are very lucky because Father Christmas will bring them what they want, but they know that not every child is as fortunate as them. 

“We were very pleased to support The Salvation Army Christmas Present Appeal.  Donating gifts is one way our family can help other children to have a better Christmas.”

Ladhar family with their donations for Ilford Salvation Army
Ladhar family with their donations for Ilford Salvation Army.
  • From Glasgow, Scotland

A big thank you to the Wheatley Group for delivering Christmas hampers to our Housing First residents in Glasgow.

The Salvation Army - in partnership with the Wheatley Group and Social Bite - provides intensive support to people in their own homes.

The residents were delighted to receive the gift parcels, which included a variety of food and toiletries.

Chris Middlemass with his support worker Stephanie McGuiness.
Chris Middlemass with his support worker Stephanie McGuiness.
  • From Dulwich, London

Pupils from Dulwich Wood Primary School filled 40 shoe boxes with small toys, gifts and sweets which they handed over to Upper Norwood Salvation Army at the end of term last week.

As well as the large pile of festive shoe boxes which Salvation Army volunteers will deliver to struggling families along with food parcels this week, the school also collected good quality toys, books and games at their school fair which Deputy Headteacher Mrs Jary took to our Beckenham Salvation Army Trading Company charity shop. 

Dulwich Wood Primary School parents and carers also made online donations at their online nativity service. 

Major Karen Layton, Upper Norwood Salvation Army leader said: “I would like to pass on my sincere thanks to everyone at Dulwich Wood for choosing us as their Christmas Charity.  The shoe boxes, charity shops donations and online donations have helped support The Salvation Army both locally and nationally.  It is very much appreciated and will help us bring joy and hope to more struggling families this Christmas.”

Dulwich Wood Primary School donations
  • From Shotts, Scotland

The Salvation Army in Shotts say the work they do at Christmas means they can keep in touch with people who need help throughout the year.

Church leader Lieutenant Amy Jo Battersby and her team of staff and volunteers have been busy preparing parcels for hundreds of children who might otherwise go without a gift on Christmas morning.

Struggling families are referred to the Salvation Army by local groups, churches, schools, social workers and health visitors. The Salvation Army team then phone each family to find out what the children like so they can prepare bespoke gift parcels.

Amy-Jo said: “We put together parcels specifically for the children with things that we’ve learned they like. We then hand deliver the gifts to the parents.

“That establishes a relationship with families. They get to know us and come back to us throughout the year. Most of the people who come to us during the year say we helped them at Christmas. Either they want to give something back or are asking about our other activities.”

Amy-Jo Battersby Shotts Christmas 2020

wc 14 December

  • From Oldham, Greater Manchester 

Spectacular Christmas lights display raises over £2,000 for the Salvation Army in Oldham

Gary and Dominique Bourke, of Ashton-under-Lyne, Manchester, have created a winter wonderland in their front garden, covering their home in 10,000 lights complete with giant Santa, reindeer, elves and fake snow.

Gary, 36, said: “We wanted to go bigger and better as it’s been a tough year for everyone. Lots of people have come to enjoy it. We have been encouraging people to donate to the Salvation Army via leaflets and Facebook so hopefully we’ve raised a bit of money. It’s been great for the neighbourhood as other people have been kitting their houses out too.”

The donations will go towards Oldham’s Fitton Hill corps, who have been working nonstop to provide food parcels and presents for struggling families, as well as spreading joy with a covid-safe Christmas grotto, which was visited by more than 200 children.

Corps officer Major Estelle Blake said: “A big thanks to Gary and Dominique for going all out this year and helping us spread Christmas cheer. The money they have raised will go towards helping those that need it most. It’s been a tough year but our amazing team, church, schools and community have pulled together to share some much needed joy.”

To donate visit their Just Giving page.

Christmas Decorations Oldham
  • From Lewisham, London

Little donkeys bring Christmas cheer to care home residents

Older people living at The Salvation Army’s care home Glebe Court in Lewisham recently had some very special four-legged visitors.

Following an enjoyable afternoon of carols and bible readings in their annual carol service, with music provided from outside by members of South London Division Salvation Army bands, Home Manager Hilary Upjohn lead some of the residents outside to the courtyard where the surprise awaited them.

It’s a donkey!” called one resident, Rita “Oh look at them!” replied Major Joy another resident as they hurried to the enclosure to get closer to the donkeys who were wearing festive coats and Santa hats.

The special animal visitors brought Christmas cheer for all the residents at the care home whose families and friends have not been able to visit in person for much of this year.

Little donkeys at Glebe Court care home
  • From London 

Spudulike has kindly donated 5,000 potatoes to Salvation Army homeless centres across the country as a warming treat this winter.

The nutritious donation will be used to feed people who are currently living on the streets or in temporary accommodation and visit Salvation Army drop ins and might otherwise not have a hot meal. They will also be given to residents of Salvation Army Lifehouses.

At our Riverside Lifehouse Complex and Founders House Lifehouse in London, residents will be served the hot potatoes at their social-distanced outdoor carol services this year with a serving of cheese, beans, or veggie chilli.

Helen Wilson, service manager at the two Lifehouses, said: “We are really grateful to Spudulike for this kind donation which will add a lovely warming touch to our carol service this year, and help show our residents that someone cares this Christmas.”

Other organisations who have made donations to Riverside Lifehouse Complex this winter include Sainsbury’s, M&S, B&Q and Community Food Enterprises.

Helen Wilson and Salvation Army Officer Alison Greer
  • From Swan Lodge Lifehouse, Sunderland

Homeless centre prepares to take on Sunderland churches in Christmas bake off.

Ahead of a Christmas ‘bake off’ with Sunderland Salvation Army churches to be held at the city’s Swan Lodge Lifehouse, residents are dusting off their cookery skills with a quick Christmas Cookery Class so they can prepare festive bakes.

People experiencing homeless especially can experience isolation and loneliness at this time of year, estranged from family and friends so the Lifehouse team – as it does throughout the year – plans life-skills courses and fun activities to lift people’s spirits and help them develop their skills and hobbies.

Gillian is pictured making a Nutella Christmas tree.

Gillian at Swan Lodge bakes a tree
  • From Wrexham, Wales

Personal trainer Brian Lane completed a 30 mile run – four miles more than a marathon - and raised more than £1,000 for The Salvation Army’s Christmas Present Appeal.

Brian, 36, who runs a fitness studio Getin2Shape with his wife Leanne, 40, said: “When we saw The Salvation Army’s Christmas Present Appeal on Facebook, we felt like we wanted to do something to help. I thought we might raise a couple of hundred of pounds, but thanks to people’s generosity, we’re at more than £1,000.”

Brian ran from his home near Wrexham on to Chester, Cheshire, and back again - completing it in five hours and nine minutes.

Karen Edwards, community manager for Wrexham Salvation Army, said: “We want to say thank you to Brian. What an amazing achievement in supporting our Christmas Present Appeal! People have been so generous this year and with their help we will able to provide gifts for around 400 children who need them most.”

To donate visit their Just Giving page. 

Wrexham fundraiser
  • From Northern Ireland

The #StuffABusNI campaign, which supports our Christmas Family Appeal, has smashed through its target of £50,000 to help ensure no child wakes up to an empty Christmas.

The campaign will be running until Christmas Eve at stuffabusni.com - and the more donations we get, the more families we can help.

Stuff A Bus NI was started by Translink and U105 in 2017 in aid of The Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul’s Family Appeal, which has been supporting children in Northern Ireland for 40 years by ensuring they have a present to open at Christmas. 

Major Jacqui Wright
  • From Chesterton, Newcastle-Under-Lyme 

Chesterton and Newcastle-Under-Lyme Salvation Army churches are supplying essential food bags to their local community. About 120 people are supported each week with the bags which contain fresh vegetables and non-perishable food.

The churches will also deliver meals for a takeaway Christmas lunch during Christmas week for older people and those who may be alone or isolated. This will be done in partnership with Chesterton Street Champions, SAFFA & Tesco.

The churches have also provided 40 Christmas socks for people experiencing homelessness that include toiletries, sweets and a chocolate orange, in collaboration with ‘Open Door’.

Julie Rowley, co-leader of the church says, “There's always a smile for people who come to us, even if it's behind our masks!”

  • From Dundee, Scotland

The Salvation Army says Covid won’t stop it helping people enjoy a brighter Christmas. 

The church and charity has had to change how it supports vulnerable and isolated people in the community. Gone, this year at least, are the bands and the carolling, and so too the sit-down Christmas Day lunches.

But Majors Carole and Gordon Tucker (pictured), who lead the Salvation Army's community church in the city, say they have never been busier as they try to meet an ever-increasing need.

The Salvation Army church is continuing to run its Christmas Present Appeal and will be offering hot meals and food parcels two days a week right up to and over Christmas.

The couple are also chaplains at the Salvation Army’s two lifehouses (residential centres for people experiencing homelessness) in Dundee - Strathmore Lodge and Burnside Mill.

Normally residents at the centres would all sit down together for a meal on Christmas Day. But this year, to keep people safe, they’ll have it in their rooms. 

However, to make up for missing out on the shared festivities, Carole, Gordon and the staff at the centres have a few special surprise treats in store for residents.

Major Gordon Tucker

wc 7 December

  • From Maldon, Essex

With pandemic restrictions limiting indoor carol services and festive events, our church in Maldon, Essex, has come up with creative ideas to bring the hope of Christmas to its community. It is preparing a ‘Christingle Service in a bag’ and a ‘Christmas Carol Service in a Box’.

The carol service package will include a DVD of traditional carols and music from Salvation Army brass bands, as well as a song sheet so people can sing along. The DVDs will be available to order and will also be delivered to local care homes, to people who usually attend The Salvation Army’s lunch club and to supporters of The Salvation Army.

This is in addition to the church continuing to provide food parcels for vulnerable families struggling during the pandemic and bringing Christmas joy for children who might not otherwise get a gift through its annual Christmas Present Appeal. A team of volunteers has already delivered 250 presents thanks to generous donations on a JustGiving page and support from Morrisons and Tesco in Maldon

~Officers in Maldon packing Christingle bags
  • Singer releases Christmas single to help raise vital funds.

American R&B singer songwriter, Alexander O’Neal, has released a new cover and music video of the Luis Armstrong hit, What a Wonderful World, which will give people the opportunity to donate to The Salvation Army alongside another homeless charity.

Donations made by people when they purchase the single, which was released at the end of November, will be split equally between The Salvation Army in the UK & Ireland and Homeless Worldwide.

Lieut-Colonel Dean Pallant, The Salvation Army’s Secretary for Communications, said:

“We are extremely grateful to Alexander O’Neal and Jenny Roberts at Homeless Worldwide for drawing attention to the plight of rough sleepers at this incredibly difficult time as temperatures begin to plummet.”

To watch the music video for Alexander O’Neal’s Christmas cover of What a Wonderful World video click here.

  • From Sheffield 

Former resident takes part in charity walk to help others. 

Ex-Charter Row lifehouse resident, Craig Winter has set off on a 159-mile walk to raise funds to help struggling former-military personnel and the families.

Craig moved into the centre in Sheffield after a relationship breakdown over the festive period left him homeless. He said: “Christmas Day is the worst time of all to be chucked out. I remember phoning up the council out of hours and requesting emergency accommodation and went into The Salvation Army over the weekend.

“I’ve had loads of help from my support worker and being at Charter Row helped me to get my head down and get my life together. The support offered to homeless people is absolutely amazing.”

Craig is trekking 159 miles over 3 days, completing his walk at The Emirates Stadium, North London, on 12 December. He will be stopping off at Salvation Army centres along his route. His walk for Walking With the Wounded was prompted by his family experience growing up. Craig said: “My dad served in the Falklands and in Ireland but when he left he never had the help that was needed till very late in life. I will always support those who served.”

  • From Chelmsford, Essex

Our church in Chelmsford, Essex, is supporting 270 vulnerable families this Christmas after local primary and secondary schools put them in touch with The Salvation Army. Volunteers will be bringing festive joy to children who might otherwise go without a present and supporting parents to put food on the table.

Throughout the pandemic, the team has been preparing around 80 food parcels each month for families, individuals and older people. Many families have been struggling to make ends meet because of low income. Some are on furlough, have lost jobs, had hours cut or are newly self-employed and haven’t qualified for Government support. The food parcels and regular contact from The Salvation Army has given families hope. Many have been in touch to say thank you to the dedicated volunteers.

One parent said: “The boys are literally jumping up and down after seeing the treat bags and want me to text you to thank you.” Whilst another family described how happy the food parcels made their children: “Thank you soooo much for the kids’ lunch bundles, they were jumping with joy to see so much. It is lovely, thank you.”

wc 30 November

  • From Clitheroe

The Salvation Army’s Clitheroe Corps is helping people stay connected by distributing supplies to their craft group to make Christmas cards and decorations.

Members of the craft club, which corps secretary Glynis Buller has run for 20 years, have been unable to meet since the pandemic so have been busy crafting at home. The corps have been creating personalised packages of craft materials for the group, which are quarantined first, then delivered with The Salvation Army newsletter. 

Glynis said: “Normally we would be making lots of cards as part of the craft club, but we’ve not been able to do that this year. The most important thing is that people stay connected. We may not be able to meet together face to face but through Facebook we can share what we’ve been working on and encourage each other".

With Christmas a struggle for many this year The Salvation Army is working hard to help those in need providing presents for children, food parcels for those going hungry and friendship for the lonely. To donate visit their Just Giviing page.

  • From Blackburn

As part of this year’s Christmas Present Appeal, The Salvation Army in Blackburn has teamed up with charity Secret Santa, to make sure that no child goes without a Christmas gift. 
 
The organisation is calling on the local community to donate unwrapped presents so every child gets a 'red bag of joy' of seven gifts. The aim is to reach at least 1,000 children who would otherwise miss out.
 
Valerie Yates, of the Blackburn Corps, said: “No child in Blackburn should go without a Christmas gift. By teaming up with Secret Santa, we want every child catered for. We’re very grateful to all those who have donated so far and particularly want to thank Phil and Karen Boulding of Secret Santa for partnering with us.

“It’s been a particularly tough year for families, with many struggling to make ends meet due to the pandemic, so we want to help share Christmas joy for those most in need”.
 
Donations have been coming in already with four-year-old Isla spending £15 of her money box savings on presents, which was matched by her parents, to give those with less a better Christmas. 
 
Presents can be dropped off at either of the residential centres; Bramwell House or Crossroads and at Vicar Street between 10am and 12pm on Friday 4 and Monday 7 December. Alternative arrangements can be made to collect gifts, pending local lockdown rules or you can donate via the Amazon wish list.  

Isla with presents in Blackburn
Isla with her donated presents
  • William Booth Memorial Halls in Nottingham

The Salvation Army and local voluntary group, 'Supporting Arms, Feeding Everybody' (SAFE) are continuing to serve hot meals during the lockdown to those sleeping rough or who need food in Nottingham.

The service typically feeds 60 people a week and also supplies toiletries and clothing. Some of the people seen at the kitchen are in their 80s, live alone and struggle to put food on the table.

Whilst some people have accommodation, they may still struggle to buy food and the service is invaluable to them.

The Salvation Army extends a huge thanks to all at SAFE who keep serving wonderful, hearty meals to those who desperately need it.

mince pies

wc 23 November

  • From Consett, County Durham

Generous Derwentsiders are donating new toys to Consett’s Christmas Present Appeal that will support families in need over the festive season.

Salvation Army leader Major Ian McCredie said: “Every year we ask people to donate new toys and gifts so we can distribute them to families whose children would otherwise not receive anything. Last year, we supported 156 families, distributing toys to 364 children. Already we’ve started receiving requests for support ahead of Christmas.”

This year people can donate via https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/consettcpa and funds will be used to purchase gifts for families. Donors can also drop off toys at the church between 10 am and 4 pm, Monday to Friday until Tuesday 15 December.

To stay Covid-safe, the church has moved its services online via https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCorYXVEQXT978Iv0eZydmiw where people can enjoy the Advent service.

On Sunday 20 December the channel will show its Nativity service from the church children and a Christingle service.

Consett Salvation Army Christmas Present Appeal launch with Major Ian McCredie.
Consett Salvation Army Christmas Present Appeal launch with Major Ian McCredie.
Bedlington market
At Bedlington Christmas market
  • From South London: 

If you love TikTok you may have heard of the ‘Smithyfamily’ who have donated a staggering number of toys to our Christmas Present Appeal this year.

They created an Amazon wish-list of toys for local charities, including us and their 1.3m followers have responded with donating over £70,000 worth of toys.

Cadet Heather Culshaw said, "When Nick first contacted us, we were excited and amazed at the support that his 1.3m followers had given! Every single gift that has been sent will help so many including children, young adults, and their families – bringing a smile to their faces this Christmas. Through the power of social media Nick has been able to bring people together in a caring community. A heartfelt thank you for all you have done to support the work of The Salvation Army across the South London Division." 

The toys will be shared locally across south London, where the Smithy’s are from and we hope they will go further afield, as so many have been donated. This is a huge achievement. We extend our thanks to the Smithy family for thinking of us at this time of year, when families will be struggling as a result of coronavirus and other issues.

The Smithy Family, donating toys to our Christmas Appeal
The Smith family at a local Salvation Army centre in South London.
  • From Coedpoeth, Wrexham:

Corps Sergeant Major Vernon Smallwood, 74, and his wife Sylvia, 69, of The Salvation Army’s Coedpoeth Corps have raised £500 for this year’s Big Collection Appeal through a sponsored walk.

It took the pair just five hours to walk a scenic 12 miles from their home near the Minera mountain to Llangollen.

Vernon said: “There are so many people who need help and because we’re stuck at the moment and unable to do street collections, we thought this would be a way of raising much needed funds. Some of our congregation are elderly and will not be able to do any form of collecting this year, but we are expecting them to contribute via our sponsorship appeal.”

The Big Collection is a fundraising challenge for members, friends, and volunteers of Salvation Army churches to raise money for social and community programmes.

Coedpoeth Corps couple raise £500 on sponsored walk

wc 16 November

  • From Penrith:

Genesis Homes and Morrisons are encouraging people to pick up their knitting needles and raise vital funds for The Salvation Army in Penrith this Christmas.

The local community is being asked to knit small scarves (45 cm x 5 cm) to put on the lids of water bottles and hand sanitisers which will then be sold in Morrisons stores.

Managing Director Nicky Gordon (Genesis Homes) said: “We want to get people knitting so they can help their local community. A lot of older people feel isolated during lockdown and this is a great way to get them involved and support the vital work of The Salvation Army.”

Andrea Mills, Community Champion for Penrith Morrisons, said: “We are really excited by this idea as it is a creative and fun way to involve all sectors of our local community. The additional money will certainly help support a charity that is close to our hearts.”

Penrith corps officer Major Carole Donaldson said: We greatly appreciate the partnership with Genesis Homes and Morrisons in helping raise much-needed funds for our work in supporting vulnerable families and isolated older people this Christmas.”

Penrith Corps Appeal
Left to right captions: Imogen Dodd (Morrisons), Nicky Gordon (Genesis Homes), corps officer Major Carole Donaldson and corps community worker Heather Watson.
  • From Barrow-in-Furness:

This year Barrow-in-Furness Salvation Army is appealing for funds to purchase gift vouchers for The Entertainer toy shop, where struggling families can choose their own gifts for their child. The vouchers will empower parents/guardians to choose gifts their children will love and help the church work in a Covid-secure way in the community.

Families will be offered gifts which were kindly donated throughout the year and will be provided with wrapping paper and tape so they have everything they need to give their children a gift this Christmas.

Corps officer Lieutenant Kat Whitmore said: “We know there are families who are really struggling at the moment and just don’t have spare income for presents and all the other little extras at Christmas. This year there are even more families who need support and we want everyone to experience the joy, peace and hope of the Christmas season. We aim to love others because God loves them – that’s our motivation.”

The appeal is being supported by the Borough Council Hardship Fund, local groups and businesses. The Salvation Army is working with local charities, faith groups and local authority agencies in the town to make sure no one is left out. Partner organisations will be providing luxury food hampers, gifts for teenagers and wellbeing packs for older people.

launch of christmas present appeal in Barrow-in-Furness
Corps officer Lieutenant Kat Whitmore
  • From Northern Ireland:

The Salvation Army’s Christmas present appeal in Northern Ireland is now underway. The Family Appeal has been helping struggling families celebrate Christmas for 40 years and this year will once again support those most in need in our communities.

First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland have lent their support this year as we try to help those most in need in our communities. The Family Appeal has benefited from the enormous generosity of the public who have donated thousands of toys in previous years. This Christmas, due to Covid-19, the general public are being encouraged to make a donation online.

Ministers in Northern Ireland launching Family appeal
First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, Major Paul Kingscott and Mary Waide of St Vincent de Paul.
  • From Penrith

Heading up a team of five volunteers, corps officer Majors Alan and Carole Donaldson and community support worker Heather Watson are preparing to support people in Penrith to ensure they aren’t isolated or struggling to feed themselves or their families over the Christmas period.

Major Carole Donaldson said: “Even since the first lockdown we’ve been making socially-distanced visits to people struggling with isolation or who are far away from family to ensure they know someone cares. We’ve delivered emergency food parcels and hot meals, some to those struggling to make ends meet or who are missing out on social activities at our church.”

Struggling families have also benefited from deliveries of  ‘Nourished Bags’ these include additional food items and children’s activities.

Major Donaldson said: “We noticed a nursery on Facebook asking for food donations for families in need and we were able to provide additional items from our food stock in ‘Nourished Bags’ as well as providing details of how they can find further help.

“Our community is extremely kind-hearted and together with them we are bringing joy and hope to people this Christmas.”

Penrith salvation army donations
Donating to a local nursery in Penrith
  •  From Derby Central:

Major Anthony Colclough from Derby Central corps is taking the opportunity to get fit and lose weight by walking 250 miles in November, helping raise funds for The Salvation Army’s Christmas Present Appeal. Having smashed his original target of 150 miles he is set to walk a further 100 miles, or the equivalent of walking from Derby to Plymouth.

Last year, over 600 children received gifts locally from The Salvation Army in Derby.  Due to the national lockdown and restrictions on traditional fundraising activities, the Corps officer is doing his bit to help raise money towards providing presents for children who might otherwise go without this Christmas.

Anthony at Derby food bank
Anthony at Derby food bank

wc 9 November

  • From Norfolk:

Christmas is underway in Norfolk as volunteers have already packed 1,200 festive food boxes. Donations from members of the public are also starting to come through via an Amazon wish list.

The county-wide Toys & Tins Appeal has launched two weeks earlier than usual to give volunteers more time to deliver food and presents to vulnerable families before Christmas, as social distancing means they need to work in smaller groups. Teenagers and young adults are also stepping in to cover evening shifts as many older volunteers continue to shield.

Toys and tins salvation army milestone
Milestone reached at the Toys and Tins appeal in Norfolk
  • From St Helens, Merseyside:

Salisbury House Lifehouse in St Helens is preparing for Christmas where the chaplain is busy drawing up activities to keep residents entertained during Christmas. Meanwhile the Aramark catering team is supervising the collection of food donations and planning festive food for residents to enjoy even though they won’t be able to sit down together for a communal meal this year.

The centre, which provides accommodation and support services for people to tackle the reasons for their homelessness, benefits from receiving food from various supermarkets through the Neighbourly food network. As well as the ingredients for hot nutritious meals the donations also include the odd treat such as biscuits or soft drinks, which will also add to residents’ enjoyment this year.

Service Manager Bryan Wallace said: “The festive period can be a difficult time for our residents who are separated from their families and friends due to circumstances in their lives, which are compounded by social distancing and restrictions at this time.

"While it’s likely we won’t be able to sit down together for Christmas dinner, we are looking forward to providing a celebration meal as we share a message of Christmas hope.”

  • From Romford, East London:

Christmas will look very different for the 100+ strong Friendship Club members this year as they take to the phone to keep in touch with one another.

Club co-ordinator, Tom Hoyles said: “Our mission has always been to combat loneliness.

“We have changed how we do things, but we have kept our group alive and connected by phoning each other. We will certainly continue this over Christmas and will send each other Christmas cards.” 

During the first national lockdown in England the group started a system of each member ringing 10 other members every week. From there, members have phoned each other once a week, even if they didn’t originally know each other that well. 

Tom continued: “Normally people see The Salvation Army in the town at Christmas, playing outside M&S and collecting, we can’t do that this year, but we have kept our friendships strong, by talking together and also marking significant events, such as birthdays.”

Group of people in Romford Salvation Army
Members of the Romford friendship club Christmas 2019
  • From Norwich:

In north Norwich, volunteers are delivering hot meals and providing socially distanced companionship on the doorstep to around 20 people who would usually attend a weekly lunch club. This week, cottage pie and apple crumble are on the menu, prepared in microwavable containers ready for people to heat up.

The weekly contact is a lifeline for isolated and lonely older people who don’t have family members or friends who can visit them in lockdown. Volunteers are currently planning for Christmas, getting ready to deliver a festive meal and presents if restrictions mean an event is unable to take place at our Norwich Mile Cross church. The team is determined to make sure that vulnerable people do not miss out on the joy and hope of Christmas this year.

  • From Bedlington 

The annual Bedlington Christmas market took place online this year, selling unique, handmade gifts and locally produced festive fare. The funds raised are vital to the church’s work in the local community.

Church members created beautiful homemade sewn gifts, seasonal chutneys and bakes and expertly upcycled home accessories and sold them via social media. They have already raised more than £1,000.

Corps officer Major Randall Clarke said: “Our annual Christmas market is a real community effort as we pool our talents and resources to make the event a success. Sadly, we can’t be together this year due to the pandemic and lockdown restrictions but our church members have been working throughout the year to create these unique gifts that will raise valuable funds for our work.”

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