Is Christmas usually a joyful time of year for you? To be plotted and planned for and full of pleasurable anticipation? Many of us are lucky and some of this scenario will prompt smiles of recognition. As Christians we certainly hope it is special. However, for some people in Winchester there is another side to that time of year – exhaustion, worry, disappointment and even dread. All around will be adverts for things that cannot be afforded, bills to be paid, the expectations of children that cannot possibly be fulfilled.
Winchester Churches Christmas Project is an attempt to help those in Winchester for whom Christmas is a really difficult time. Each case is different but perhaps we can provide a boost after a difficult year, a helping hand with a worrying bill or the peace of mind brought by knowing that the electricity won’t run out over Christmas. There could be new toys and festive food but the list might also include warm clothes (to replace those left when fleeing domestic violence), a carpet, second hand furniture or a morale-boosting treat. Our volunteers need to be understanding and resourceful!
I invite your congregation to contribute to this ecumenical initiative which supports individuals and families in Winchester. Last Christmas our 92 volunteers from 18 different churches helped 168 people. Money for the Project is raised each year through the churches – from whole congregations and from individuals.
How it works: Before Christmas each pair of volunteers will visit a family that has been referred to us (by professional social work agencies) to ascertain their needs and then shop with, or on behalf of, the family. Each family has a set amount of money allocated. Those visited are in charge as much as possible – they choose what will make Christmas special for them. Sometimes the money is not the most important bit – knowing that someone is prepared to spend time and take the trouble to listen can mean a lot. There are no strings attached to our help. We show our Christian faith and witness in caring for and helping those we visit.
We have managed to transform Christmas for many families, and volunteers have found an extra blessing in their own Christmas celebrations.
You can help by praying for the Project, becoming a volunteer and of course by making a donation.
We will be contacting volunteers from previous years directly to ask if they are able to help again this year. However, we will be delighted to welcome new volunteers (who would always be paired with someone experienced). For more information please contact me via The United Church office 01962 849559 or via firstname.lastname@example.org We do need to know volunteer numbers by 5th November, please.
We would be very grateful indeed for donations which should be sent to the Project Treasurer, Mrs Jessica Tringham, c/o United Church Office, Jewry Street, Winchester, SO23 8RZ. Please make cheques payable to “Winchester Churches Christmas Project”, ideally by mid November. I realise that this is an early date but we do need to have an idea of what funds we have available before allocating money to families. Individuals who would like to Gift Aid their donation should add “Gift Aid” to the Project name on the cheque, provide their name and address and specify that it is to be Gift Aided
We look forward to your support. Many thanks.
Helen McTiffin (Joint Co-ordinator of the Project with Janet Stewart)