During the festive season, it’s easy to forget about community charity and just focus on your own family, but a lot of people don’t have a great support system around them. Not everyone has the privilege of waking up in a warm bed and opening gifts with family.
Last year, Crisis UK estimated that over 9,000 people would wake up on Christmas Day in tents, cars, trains and buses as a result of the UK’s homelessness crisis. A survey for families on Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit found 37 per cent will rely on charity food parcels or charity Christmas meals, while 21 per cent will use donated Christmas gifts. At the same time, research from Age UK showed that over a million over-65-year-olds expect to be lonely at Christmas.
These problems exist across the country, but there are things that you can do locally to help bring down some of those numbers. In Kingston, there are so many charities that support those in need who could use the extra help around Christmas time. Here are a few local charities that you could support this Christmas.
RBKares – Supporting Local Heroes:
RBKares is running its Christmas Care Homes Project for the second year running, making, buying, wrapping and delivering around 1500 presents to every carer and every resident in the borough who has no one else to buy for them. They also provide a communal hamper for each care home which includes homemade stockings, lovingly knitted by local ladies.
Founder of RBKares Dr Kate Kenyon, 60, said: “We saw what the care homes were going through during the pandemic which was awful – it really was shocking. We wanted to do something to show them that we care and to show that the community wanted to do something for them.”
There are currently 10 people working at RBKares and it’s always looking for more volunteers and donations via crowd funder and on other platforms. They often shout out for specific donations on Facebook for things like toiletries, chocolates, jigsaw puzzles, adult colouring book, and origami.
“There are people who have money who can donate and buy gifts and there are people who might not have so much that can offer their time to help us with wrapping and delivering, or even making baked goods,” Dr Kenyon said.
RBKares is not just committed to helping care home residents and carers – it seeks out and offers support to anyone in the community who might need it. It has been supporting Kingston hospital staff since the start of the pandemic, especially the A&E department, by taking them snacks and baked goods twice a week and were committed to making masks, scrubs, and bags for the staff to use.
This year, RBKares is a finalist in the running for the Start Up of the Year award and the Contribution to the Community award from the Kingston Borough Business Awards (KBBA). As the charity grows, they will be in need of someone to manage their social media as well as more volunteers.
Christmas Day Dinner Richmond
Christmas Day Dinner Richmond is a charity that supports care leavers and makes sure they are treated like royalty on Christmas Day. It was founded by 50-year-old Twickenham resident, Sian Thomas, five years ago. The whole charity is run by volunteers and relies on donations from the public. Around 50 young people come by taxi and get a Christmas dinner prepared by a chef every year, as well as receiving presents and watching entertainment, all courtesy of public donations.
Thomas said: “Our aim is very simple: that no young adult care leaver should feel alone on the big day.” Thomas works as a nurse in child protection and safe-guarding and her experience means that she knows first-hand how care-leavers often end up alone on Christmas day.
“We want to shine a light on them in the community, as they don’t have the same support as they did when they were younger. They need to know they’re not forgotten.”
This year, local beautician Rachel Staggs Aesthetics is providing 15 of the care leavers with beauty treatments including nails, eyelashes and spray tans free of charge from December 20. In addition to this, ex-Strictly dancer Robin Windsor will be part of the day’s entertainment, along with a games wagon with play stations, a photo booth, and a showing of The Grinch. Care leavers with children are allowed to bring them along to enjoy the celebrations.
The charity aims to celebrate their resilience and create positive memories by making this day magical for the care leavers. There is still more to be done this year before Christmas Day. From wrapping paper donations to amazon wish list gifts for the care leavers – any and all donations are appreciated. The Christmas Day Dinner Richmond is also still trying to reach their target on their Just Giving page – every donation counts.
Cambridge Road Estates Community Group (CREst)
Cambridge Road Estates Community Group (CREst) runs a weekly lunch for homeless residents every Tuesday and an emergency foodbank, all from Piper Hall, which is just off Road in Kingston. Since 2004, CREst has supported the mental health and wellbeing of the Cambridge Road Estate community – one of Kingston’s most deprived areas.
There are currently 16 volunteers working at CREst but they are always looking for more people to help out. Jill Preston, 64, a Cambridge Estate resident who runs CREst said: “It’s not just about handing them a hot meal but also having a conversation with them and supporting them. For some, we’re the only people they speak to every week.”
Donations are always welcome, whether that’s in the form of money, frozen food, tins, or fresh fruit and vegetables. CREst is also looking for donations like thermos flasks, hot water bottles and things to keep people warm during the winter months, not just for the homeless but also for people who are struggling to heat their houses after Universal Credit cuts. Food bank vouchers can be exchanged for power and heating vouchers which can be collected at the archway opposite Piper Hall every Wednesday 10am till 12pm.
The group is also looking for support from the community to stop Piper Hall from being knocked down as part of the Kingston redevelopment project next year as the council has not yet agreed to provide them with an alternative venue to run CREst.
GoodGym is a community of people who get fit by doing good. It organises sessions at which people run, walk and cycle to do physical tasks for community projects and support isolated and older people. It’s a great way to get fit, meet new people and do some good at the same time. GoodGym sessions are happening all over; you can head to the website and put in your postcode to see what is happening near you.
The GoodGym supports Surbiton Farmers’ Market who are looking for volunteers to help them set up on Saturday December 18. Over the years, stallholders have raised over £70,000 for charities and good causes benefitting Kingston and surrounding areas.
Another festive event in need of volunteers is The Kingston Choral Society Christmas Concert. On December 18 help is needed with putting up staging and setting out chairs at St Andrews Church. The event involves live carols, wine, and mince pies too.
Finally, following on from the GoodGym team putting up all the Christmas lights and decorations, there is only one way they can go and that is down and into boxes ready for 2022. Volunteers are needed on Thursday January 6 to help remove decorations, clean windows and take down the lights of a local supported living home. Hot chocolate and marshmallows will be provided.
White added: “GoodGym sessions are the perfect way to spread some Christmas cheer and help your local community at the same time. Volunteers are essential to community groups who often rely on the goodwill of people to be able to run, especially at this time of year.”
If you know of any other local charities in need of support this Christmas, drop us a message on social media and we will share it with the Kingston community.