Dozens of families across Salisbury experiencing trauma during ‘credit crunch Christmas’ are being thrown a lifeline as kind-hearted businesses rally to deliver free festive food and gift boxes direct to their homes in time for the big day.
For the last five years, Stephen Conway, who owns Cavendish Films in Salisbury, has coordinated an appeal to provide gift boxes including ingredients for a Christmas dinner, crackers, presents and sweets to families in crisis. He is supported by The Trussell Trust – which helps identify the families most in need – and a dedicated team of volunteers which packs and distributes the items direct to families’ homes.
Organisers say there is record demand for the Christmas hampers this year as an increasing number of families are being hit by the credit crunch. Among those likely to receive help this year are Army families, people who have lost their jobs, those with health or financial problems or people who are lonely and isolated.
“There is a misconception that there are no struggling families in Salisbury,” says Stephen Conway. “In fact, we have seen an increase in people asking for help and turning to charities like The Trussell Trust for help, due to the credit crunch. There are several reasons – including people losing their jobs, falling into debt or struggling with health problems.
“To make matters worse, the festive season can be a really difficult time for families. Many feel under huge pressure to buy expensive gifts for their children when they really cannot afford it. Others simply spend Christmas completely alone.
“It is really important to show that local people care about these families, particularly at this time of year. Sometimes when we deliver the hampers the children go bananas and other times, the adults will come out and give you a hug. That is what makes it all worthwhile.”
“Hidden behind closed doors, many Salisbury families will be struggling to eat at all this Christmas, let alone have a special dinner,” says David McAuley, general manager of The Trussell Trust. “We are delighted to be working with Stephen to make sure that the families facing tough times this festive season not only get emergency food supplies but also a special Christmas hamper. At a time when it’s easy to get carried away with all the sparkle, glitz and tinsel, we hope people will spare a little to help all local families have a happy Christmas.”
Stephen has gained further support from fellow members of Spire, the Salisbury chapter of business networking group BNI. Tisbury-based national PR agency E=MC² Public Relations and local professional photographer Fritz Curzon have agreed to help pack the hampers at St Osmund’s Church hall on Exeter Street at 11am on December 22 and deliver the items later that day.
Now Stephen is now appealing for more people to support the initiative, which costs £1,000 to run. Members of the public are invited to make a cash donation, provide items for the hampers or volunteer to help pack and deliver them. Cash donations should be sent to Stephen Conway, C/O The Trussell Trust, St Michael’s Community Centre, St Michael’s Road, Salisbury, SP2 9LE or call in. To volunteer or donate items, please telephone Stephen on 07771 781555.
Photo by Fritz Curzon – Andrew Gray from E=MC² Public Relations holds a ready-packed Christmas hamper, joined by (from l-r) Susie Carter, E=MC² Public Relations, Stephen Cavendish, owner of Cavendish Films, and Lucy Mackenzie, foodbank network assistant for The Trussell Trust.