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 had always dreamt of spending Christmas in a proper home with a Christmas tree and decorations.
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."
“I’m looking forward to Christmas this year thanks to The Salvation Army because I will be able to spend it with my family.”
“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 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
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.
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.
- 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.”
- 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.