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Surviving Christmas volunteers prepare to get packing food and gifts. This photo, from Christmas 2014, shows chef Max Scard in the centre - Max died this year and will be sadly missed, according to chair of trustees Ann Andrews (photo: Surviving Christmas).

Surviving Christmas volunteers prepare to get packing food and gifts. This photo, from Christmas 2014, shows chef Max Scard in the centre – Max died this year and will be sadly missed, says chair of trustees Ann Andrews.

Christmas cheer for all in Hastings!

Christmas arrangements are in hand to provide seasonal cheer to those who would otherwise miss out due to tough economic or personal circumstances. Leading the way is Surviving Christmas, which pays tribute to the generosity of people and companies in supporting its work. Nick Terdre reports.

Surviving Christmas will again be holding its Open Christmas event at the Salvation Army hall in the town centre, which will be open to the public on both Christmas and Boxing Day from 10am to 4pm.

There will of course be food – Christmas dinner, fruit, snacks, a tea bar – and a range of services – showers, hairdressing, medical staff and free clothing, as well as musical entertainment. The event is open to all – up to 150 can be catered for on each day, Ann Andrews, the chair of trustees, tells HOT.

Christmas dinner for the elderly at St Matthews last year.

Christmas dinner for the elderly at St Matthews last year.

Surviving Christmas will also be repeating its Christmas Day lunch at St Matthews church in St Leonards for elderly people who might otherwise be left on their own. This went really well when it was done for the first time last year, Ann says. “There were fewer than we expected, but everyone enjoyed themselves and we received several thank-you cards.” The event offers elderly people a chance to spend three hours together, enjoying a chat and a sing-along as well as the meal. Anyone wishing to attend this year should get in touch, Ann says. (Please spread the word to anyone you think might like to attend.)

Surviving Christmas also sends out hampers to needy families identified by referral agencies. This year it is preparing in excess of 900, about half as many again as last year. Demand has definitely increased, Ann says. In addition to food, each hamper also contains presents for each member of the family – over 2,700 gifts will be distributed. Some of the hampers will contain shoe-boxes with small gifts – these have been put together by children under the coordination of Kings Church, and are intended for children of a similar age.

A fleet of vans and drivers will be delivering the hampers – including some for elderly recipients which will only be delivered on Christmas morning. Hamper deliveries are being made ever further afield this year, including Staplehurst and Northiam.

Altogether some 50 volunteers will be helping on Christmas Day, most at the Salvation Army centre. There are more would-be volunteers than there are jobs, Ann says – some had to be turned away.

Local generosity extends beyond volunteering to financial support and contributions of goods – food, toys and other presents – and services. One transport firm is making its vans available, Sainsbury’s is making food collections, Sussex Coast College is helping with the toy appeal. Many companies are sponsoring hampers, including one from Dorset. Other charities and trusts have made monetary donations. Surviving Christmas’s various activities are all fully funded with the exception of the hampers, for which some further support is still required.

Food items and presents ready for packing.

Donations of food items and presents ready for packing. “Hastings has done us proud,” says Ann Andrews.

“As usual Hastings has done us proud,” Ann says. “This town never ceases to amaze me, and we’ve also had a lot of support from Bexhill, Rother and elsewhere.” In acknowledgement of this widespread support, there will be a donor wall in the Salvation Army hall with the names of people and companies providing sponsorship, and guests will be able to post a message in return if they wish to record their thanks.

There will be a tinge of sadness to Open Christmas, however, following the untimely death of the popular chef, Max Scard. “He will be sadly missed,” says Ann. “The catering team are feeling somewhat bereft of their leader.” Trustee Adam Newington will don the chef’s hat in Max’s place.

Meanwhile Xtrax, the young people’s access hub in the town centre, will be open on Christmas Day, but with a limited service – it is consulting those who use its services on Facebook to gauge the demand.

The charity is currently in the throes of moving from its premises in Harold Place to a smaller place in the Gizmo building at 23 Priory Street. The move has been necessitated by the reduction in funds coming through from the charitable trusts which support Xtrax, trustees’ administrator Martin Hyland tells HOT. Xtrax expects to be in its new premises in time for Christmas.

All photos by Surviving Christmas.

Open Christmas Christmas Day and Boxing Day, 10am – 4pm at the Salvation Army centre, St Andrew’s Square, Hastings T N34 1SP. Free and open to all.

If you wish to attend the Christmas dinner for the elderly at St Matthews church, please contact Surviving Christmas on 01424 424550.

If you wish to make a donation, please visit the Surviving Christmas website  or Facebook page.

Posted 16:08 Friday, Dec 18, 2015 In: Grassroots

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