Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Tinned food for hampers.

Provisions for the hamper service.

Season’s greetings from Surviving Christmas

Surviving Christmas is putting the final touches to its annual arrangements to bring seasonal cheer to those who are homeless or, for whatever reason, are unable to provide an enjoyable Christmas for themselves and their families. Nick Terdre reports. Photos by Surviving Christmas.

On Christmas Day and Boxing Day the doors will be open to all at the Salvation Army Centre in St Andrew’s Square. “Anyone who is in need or lonely or doesn’t have anywhere to go on Christmas Day is welcomed in,” Caroline Bendell, Surviving Christmas’ chair of trustees, tells HOT. Up to 200 will be catered for, about the same number as last year.

There will be plenty of food – Christmas dinner, with turkey and all the trimmings, or a vegetarian option, sandwiches and snacks, as well as soft drinks, tea and coffee. Other services will also be provided: those who wish will be able to take a shower, have their hair done and make good their wardrobe from the clothing stall. On Christmas Day, a doctor will be in attendance.

Hamper service

Gifts ready for distribution.

Gifts ready for distribution.

The Christmas and Boxing Day events at the Salvation Army centre attract many volunteers – more than there are jobs. However, there are other tasks to be done. Surviving Christmas aims to serve the whole of Hastings and Rother, and for the many who are unable to come into central Hastings, it provides a hamper service.

This year it expects to deliver some 600 hampers to individuals and families referred by the social services, churches and other charities. Each hamper contains food, beverages and a gift for every family member. When delivery takes place this week in the run-up to Christmas, drivers will be carrying a selection of spare gifts in case the number of recipients turns out to be greater than expected.

That’s a lot of hampers to pack and deliver. Altogether Caroline reckons some 170 volunteers will be working for the community organisation in one capacity or another.


While this year’s arrangements are fully funded, raising funds is a rolling task. “We are always in need of funds as we have to work a year ahead,” Caroline says. “All of the monies that come in will go towards a hamper or a place at the open event.”

She also pays tribute to the generosity of the people of Hastings and Rother. “There are so many different ways people are stepping in to help us,” she says. “It’s the time of year when people want to be reaching out and helping others.”

That generosity is shown in different ways: donations of money by individuals and companies, the time contributed by volunteers and, not least, the many different services provided by businesses. As examples of the latter, Caroline mentions the vans made available by Crusader Vehicle Hire for hamper deliveries, the collection of food at the Sainsburys’ stores in St Leonards and Bexhill and the meal preparation undertaken at Sussex Coast College.

Getting the volunteers organised and trained is also a vital task. East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has helped with first aid awareness training for both lead volunteers and the trustees themselves – three of the five trustees, including Caroline, are new to the role. So she is keen to see this year’s service run smoothly, not just for herself and her colleagues, but more importantly for those who would otherwise be left out in the cold during our mid-winter festival.

Meanwhile Xtrax, the young people’s access hub in the town centre, will be open on Christmas Day from 11am to 2pm, but closed on Boxing Day, trustees’ administrator Martin Hyland tells HOT. Xtrax has now been a year in its new premises in Gizmo House, 23 Priory Street in Hastings.


Surviving Christmas Doors open to all on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, 10am–4pm at the Salvation Army Centre, St Andrew’s Square, Hastings TN34 1SP.

You can donate to the work of Surviving Christmas here.

Tinned food for the hampers.

Tinned food for the hampers.

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Posted 13:15 Monday, Dec 19, 2016 In: Grassroots

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