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Surviving Christmas runs a hamper service providing food and presents to several hundred recipients in Hastings and Rother.

Food and presents for Surviving Christmas hampers, which are delivered to several hundred recipients in Hastings and Rother.

It’s all systems go for Christmas charities

Christmas is a busy time for charities working with homeless people and families short of the resources to provide for themselves at the toughest time of the year. This is especially true for those charities with a Christmas focus, such as Surviving Christmas, which will be providing its usual seasonal hospitality. Another event has been arranged at the YMCA. Nick Terdre (himself a Surviving Christmas volunteer) reports. Photos by Surviving Christmas.

The venue for Surviving Christmas’s hospitality on Christmas Day and Boxing Day is the Salvation Army Centre in St Andrew’s Square, though in the past it has also used the YMCA. There will be a two-course meal on both days – turkey, chippolatas, roast potatoes and all the trimmings on 25th, and gammon, bubble and squeak and pickles on 26th, Sue Evans, chair of trustees and project manager, tells HOT. Doors will be open from 10am to 4pm.

Serving up.

Serving up.

A second sitting can be organised, as it was last year, if there are many late-comers. And for anyone who arrives too late to eat on the premises, a take-away will be provided.

The charity is catering for 120 on Christmas Day and 100 on Boxing Day – about the same number as last year, says Sue. But she is keen to coordinate with Paul Tablord, organiser of the YMCA event on Christmas Day, to avoid any wastage. Paul, who arranged similar events when he was landlord of the Union Bar and before that The Tub, tells HOT he is expecting between 40 and 70.

At the Salvation Army Centre guests will be able to take a shower, have a haircut and get their feet seen to. There will also be qualified nurses providing medical care and advice as some of those who come have wounds which need dressing.

The event attracts many rough sleepers, and for the first time people with dogs will be able to leave them outside in the care of a volunteer from a dog rescue centre while they go inside and eat.

Free Santa's Grotto.

Free Santa’s Grotto.

There will also be entertainment, including songs and carols from the Salvation Army Congregation and, on Boxing Day, the mellifluous strains of the Hastings Old Town Ukelele Band. There will be a free Santa’s Grotto with presents for the kids.

Hastings Furniture Service will lend a large TV, a couple of sofas and some coffee tables, so guests will also be able to watch a film or play board games. Not a few just like to sleep, Sue says.

Hamper service

Surviving Christmas also runs a hamper service for the many in the Hastings and Rother areas who cannot travel into central Hastings on Christmas or Boxing days. Hampers – larger families get two – will be packed and delivered in the week before Christmas. Presents are also provided for the children. Recipients are nominated by statutory agencies and charities working with families and children.

Having had to cope with a rush of late orders last year, Surviving Christmas is this year catering for up to 700. When the deadline for referrals passed in early December, some 500 had been received, but the charity is happy to accept late orders.

In addition to more than 100 volunteers, Surviving Christmas can count on the generosity of a raft of businesses, both local and distant: Crusader Vans of Buxted lends the vans for the hamper deliveries, while Saico of Reading provides the hamper boxes. Arcade Butchers provides the turkey crowns, Sidley butchers Gerald Matthews the chippolatas and greengrocer Fountains vegetables and fruit. Walker’s restaurant in Robertson Street pre-roasts the potatoes on Christmas Eve while the turkey and bubble and squeak are cooked in the kitchens of Sussex Coast College.

Dancing to the strains of the Hastings Old Town Ukelele Band.

Dancing to the strains of the Hastings Old Town Ukelele Band.

A town’s generosity

It takes a pretty penny to pay for it all but again the town rallies round to help. Hastings Rotary Club has donated £3,000, while the Child Support Agency in Ashdown House organised a Christmas fair with the proceeds going to Surviving Christmas. The annual Soul Express party in St Mary in the Castle raises funds for both Surviving Christmas and St Michael’s Hospice.

The Eastbourne branch of HSBC bank is also helping by holding a raffle in aid of Surviving Christmas – and the bank will match-fund the sum raised pound-for-pound. Kids at half a dozen local primary schools are making decorated mini hampers with their parents supplying the contents. There are prizes for the best hampers.

Working with Fair Share

This year Surviving Christmas has hooked up with Fair Share, which is in the business of preventing food waste by channelling short-dated food items from supermarkets to charities. The charity will take delivery of bakery goods, fruit and veg nearing their sell-by date which Fair Share will collect from Tesco Express at Little Common.

Collections, both monetary and in kind, are taken at the Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s superstores. Morrison’s also has a bin for food gifts.

There is no danger of having too much, Sue says, as any food left over will be passed on to local food banks.

Over at the YMCA Paul can also count on the generosity of others. The food for his event is provided by Dom’s Food Mission, which feeds needy individuals and families in Hastings throughout the year. Friends have also contributed – a couple raised £255 through a sponsored run around Brighton. He has no shortage of volunteers, he says – he is sure they gain as much from the experience as do the guests.

Meanwhile Xtrax, the young people’s centre in Priory Street, will also be opening its doors on Christmas Day, from about 11am to 4pm, Martin Hyland, the trustees’ administrator, tells HOT. Judging by last year, he expects a dozen or so to turn up for Christmas dinner.

See also Season’s greetings from Surviving Christmas

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Posted 18:44 Wednesday, Dec 13, 2017 In: Grassroots

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