CHRISTMAS for the homeless, lonely and disadvantaged was a more festive occasion this year than it otherwise might have been, thanks to a charity’s hospitality.
Scores of people were treated to a three-day Open Christmas event at the YMCA on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Monday, courtesy of Surviving Christmas.
Along with a traditional turkey dinner and all the trimmings, invited guests also had the opportunity to have a free haircut, provided by professional hairdressers, choose clothes, shoes, or bedding, from a vast range of donated items in the clothing store and the opportunity to socialise.
Dozens of volunteers also distributed hampers to those in need in Hastings and the rest of 1066 Country in the run-up to Christmas.
Hastings MP Amber Rudd visited guests and volunteers during the three-day Open Christmas event and Councillor Richard Stevens dropped off scores of pairs of socks, donated by the public for his annual Sox Appeal.
Judith Wycherley, the charity’s chairman, said Surviving Christmas’ work takes all year to plan and cost around £40,000 this year. The charity has around 60 volunteers. She said: “Considering the current economic situation people have been as generous as they can be.
“While it wouldn’t be fair to single out one group, several churches in Bexhill have been brilliant, and St Richard’s Catholic College presented a cheque for £1,400, plus a van load of food, toys and gifts - which it does every year. It’s magnificent.
“Everyone who comes to us is referred by a professional agency. Sometimes families arrive in town and, due to difficult circumstances, find themselves homeless and with nothing.
“We provide bedding, coats, boots, and warm winter clothing.
“Last year we helped 5,000 people in Hastings and Rother and this year there was an extra 1,000 people on the list. This meant that we had to find an extra £5,000 to buy additional food vouchers.”
This year Surviving Christmas distributed almost 600 food hampers to the needy.
Food vouchers are given to disadvantaged families, and, as with those receiving a hamper, each family member receives a Christmas present.
These brand new gifts are donated by churches, schools, businesses or individuals.
Mrs Wycherley praised all the volunteers for their hard work.
“It was one of the nicest Christmases we have organised and guests have said they enjoyed it very much.
“We would like to say a big thank you to project managers Kevin Pettitt and Dennis Preston, who have been managing the three-day event for several years, and are retiring this year.”
Surviving Christmas still needs donations. For further information visit www.survivingchristmas.co.uk or ring 01424 424550.