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A feel-good Christmas: Local charities making a difference

During the season of goodwill, Georgette McCready salutes the local charities who make the lives of vulnerable people a little easier

A huge army of volunteers working largely behind the scenes in the Bath area have made it very simple for the rest of us to give a little this Christmas, and to help make a big impact on the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves.

While you’re trawling the supermarket aisles buying goodies for the family over the holiday period, it’s a simple gesture to drop some extra chocolate, a tin of sponge pudding or a packet of ready-made custard into your trolley and leave them in the Bath Foodbank bin by the tills as a gift to someone who will really appreciate them when times are hard.

The Bath Foodbank, run by the charitable Trussell Trust, saw a 36 per cent increase in the number of local people needing help during the last 12 months. Thanks to donations of long-life food and bathroom items such as shower gel and toothpaste, volunteers were able to hand out 4,103 three-day emergency food supplies during the year – many of them to families with children.

We’re all familiar with the sight of homeless people on the streets of Bath and at this time of year when we’re going home to well-lit, warm, safe homes, their plight seems all the more upsetting. One way to help those on the streets is to support the work of local charity Julian House. And there are many ways that our donations can help.

During the severe weather conditions last winter when lives were at risk from the cold, Julian House provided 375 additional nights of accommodation at its Manvers Street hostel for 94 individuals in crisis. It also extended its day centre opening hours and ran extra outreach sessions. The hostel became very crowded, but from 1 November the charity now offers another 20 emergency bed spaces which homeless people will be able to use over the winter and which will have a significant impact on the level of rough sleeping in the city.

“It’s a simple gesture to drop some extra chocolate, a tin of sponge pudding or a packet of ready-made custard into your trolley and leave them in the Bath Foodbank bin by the tills”

The new Safesleep Hostel is next door to the Manvers Street hostel and will run until at least 28 February and will be open during the coldest parts of the night, from 10pm – 8am. Rough sleepers will be contacted by a team of specialist outreach staff and actively encouraged not to stay out in the cold, where their lives will be at risk.

In addition to providing a safe alternative to rough sleeping this will also allow Julian House staff to engage more effectively with clients and provide better prospects for moving them on into sustainable accommodation.

Julian House also responds when people report concern about rough sleepers in B&NES via Street-link: streetlink.org.uk.

But homelessness is not just an issue at this time of year. It’s a major issue all year round. Julian House not only offers a bed for a night, they also provide supported accommodation and targeted support for clients with a wide spectrum of needs including domestic violence, learning difficulties, a history of offending, addiction recovery and long-term unemployment. The organisation is devoted to addressing the needs of its clients and helping to maximise the opportunity for them to make positive life choices.

We can also help Julian House by attending a concert with award-winning jazz star Clare Teal, who is holding her tenth annual Festive Fiesta, an evening of music, wit and warmth, on Tuesday 11 December. For tickets tel: 01225 489070.

Festive cookies made by the 3 Café in Three Ways School in Odd Down

Like Julian House, the staff and volunteers at Dorothy House Hospice work all year round. The ongoing fundraising programme is vital to keep the charity going and allow it to care for patients at the hospice in Winsley, but also in people’s homes in Bath and North East Somerset and parts of Somerset and Wiltshire. They also offer support for patients’ families during very difficult times.

Mindful of how Christmas can be an emotionally challenging time, Dorothy House runs an annual series of services of light at churches across the region. This allows people to come together for a short service of around 45 minutes and to light candles in memory of family and friends. The annual Light Up a Life appeal provides a beautifully lit Christmas tree in the grounds at Winsley where its lights shine out until Sunday 6 January. All are welcome to visit the tree, which is best seen after dark.

Fundraisers at Dorothy House also understand that people enjoy coming together in the run-up to Christmas and events such as the Santa and Elf Fun Run provide the chance to take part in something as a family and raise money at the same time. This year’s Santa and Elf Fun Run is on Sunday 9 December at 11am, with participants of all ages running or walking round the parkland at Bath Spa University. Spectators can also throw biodegradable snow over the runners, who will be wearing festive outfits. Sign up at: santaandelfrun.org.uk.

The Santa and Elf Fun Run organised by Dorothy House

The Dorothy House Hospice at Home service provides support for end-of-life patients so they can be cared for and die at home. Over Christmas the Hospice at Home carers will travel more than 6,000 miles and carry out more than 200 home visits, giving patients and their families the priceless gift of being able to spend Christmas together.

A feel-good project set up by a Bath school combines giving its students work experience and offering a service to the local community. Three Ways School at Odd Down, which provides for children with special educational needs, runs its own catering business, 3 Café and Kitchen. The café gives students the chance to work alongside catering professionals, learning skills they can usefully employ in the workplace. The café’s range of delicious and reasonably priced food has won it a loyal local following of customers.

In the run up to Christmas, 3 Café, which is open every day except Sunday, will be selling its range of chutneys, jams and cranberry sauce, alongside mince pies and customers can book in to enjoy a Christmas-themed cream tea. On Saturday 8 December the café, just along the road from Sainsbury’s, is hosting a Christmas fair between 10am and 1pm. Students from the University of Bath School of Management have helped organise the fair as part of the local Rotork Community Challenge. Meet Santa in his yurt and enjoy stalls, children’s activities and mulled wine.

To find out how to support some of Bath’s good causes visit: julianhouse.org.uk; dorothyhouse.org.uk; bath.foodbank.org.uk

Featured image: The Christmas tree at Winsley, part of the Light Up a Life appeal by Dorothy House Hospice