Bring festive cheer to the less fortunate
A HOMELESS shelter held every year over Christmas at the Queen’s Drive Methodist Church is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
And this year will be the last time founder Betty Spence will be involved with the project, as she is planning to retire and will be crowned life president after the shelter closes on December 28.
This year the shelter is preparing to welcome hundreds of the town’s homeless from 11am on Christmas Eve until 11am on December 28, and it is appealing to the generosity of Swindonians to donate time, food and clothing to the cause to help keep the shelter running.
Patsy Moloney, chairman at Christmas Care, said: “It’s the four most important days of the year for people. There are people out there who are just on their own every day for 12 months. On these four days of the year people can come and it’s the four days of the year that they really feel safe.”
Open to those living in sheltered accommodation or on low incomes as well as the homeless, visitors, who are mostly young people aged between 17 and 30, can arrive, shower, help themselves to bedding and clothes and enjoy as much food as they like while they are at the shelter.
Visitors also enjoy breakfast every morning, complete with bacon, eggs and anything else they might like.
They also have an opportunity for a chiropodist to look at their feet and get a haircut.
Patsy said: “It’s like a little hotel really. The only thing we are restricted with is the entertainment because we can’t have dart boards or anything like that for their own safety.
“At the end of the week any clothing left over after everyone has taken what they want goes to countries that need it, so nothing is wasted, and leftover food is taken down to the Salvation Army who use it in their soup kitchen.”
Last year, more than 500 meals were served including more than 70 turkey dinners cooked and carved by staff at Menzies Hotel on Christmas Day, and more than 40 people slept overnight at the shelter.
Unfortunately there is no provision for dogs at the shelter, and drugs, alcohol and cigarettes are banned.
The shelter relies heavily on the generosity of donations and will need more than 150 volunteers to work four-hour shifts while the shelter remains open.
Volunteers must be over the age of 16 for insurance purposes and two meetings will be held for prospective volunteers at the Queen’s Drive Methodist Church at 8pm on November 6 and 14.
The shelter is also looking for donations of sleeping bags, bedding, towels, warm clothing, footwear and toiletries, as well as turkeys, vegetables such as carrots and parsnips, bacon, eggs and sausages.
It is also looking for a 6ft Christmas tree and lights, and chest or upright freezers.
Donations can be taken to Queen’s Drive Methodist Church in Park South at these times only:
- December 7 from 10am-3pm
- December 11 from 7.30pm-9.30pm
- December 13 from 7.30pm-9.30pm
- December 14 from 10am-3pm
- December 17 from 10am-2pm
- December 18 from 10am-1pm
- December 19 from 2pm-3pm
- December 20 from noon-2pm
- December 21 from noon-3pm
- December 22 from 2pm-3pm
- December 23 from 9am-2pm
- December 24 all day.
People can also donate cash to the cause at the Pilgrim Centre in the town centre every weekday from December 9 from 10am to 2pm.
For more information visit www.christmascare.co.uk or call Patsy Moloney on 01793 642368.
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