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Spread a smile of joy – giving back at Christmas

Christmas is a time when our hearts warm at the thought of presents, decorations, food and drink, and happy times. It’s also a time to reflect and show goodwill to one another.

For most people, Christmas is about connecting with loved ones, spoiling them and enjoying a bit of fizz to celebrate another year. However, our communities extend beyond our immediate family and closest friends; there are many people that need support.

There are endless things you can do to create a special moment for someone in need, or ease their pain with a small gesture. We’ve come up with a few ideas we think embody the true spirit of Christmas, giving not to receive but to help those less fortunate than ourselves.

Feed a family

A growing number of families in the UK are going hungry – falling into what has been labelled food poverty – as they struggle to make ends meet. Many are having to call on foodbanks for support.

A foodbank is a non-profit, charitable organisation that distributes food to those in danger of going hungry. Food parcels usually contain enough food for three days – long life and non-perishable good being preferred. Some foodbanks also provide toiletries, pet food and hygiene products to help people suffering hardship maintain their dignity.

A typical food parcel includes:

– Pasta sauce
– Beans
– Tinned vegetables
– Tea/coffee
– Long-life milk
– Cereal
– Tinned soup
– Dried pasta
– Rice
– Tinned fruit and puds
– Biscuits

As you can see a box of simple foodstuffs makes a big difference, with foodbanks helping prevent crime, housing loss, family breakdown and mental health problems. Additionally, volunteers also lend an ear to clients over a warm drink, and signpost people to other services to try and help resolve their troubles.

Locally, Conwy Foodbank is appealing for donations over the Christmas period, with several drop-off points located around the county.

Reach out

Along with food poverty, loneliness is another problem in the UK, particularly among our elderly population. Find out how you can join the fight against loneliness by becoming a volunteer for Contact the Elderly that organises tea parties for older people or The Campaign To End Loneliness, a charity campaigning to eradicate loneliness in young and old.

If you like writing, why not revive a dying art and make friends by getting a penfriend? In this digital age, there are fewer more personal ways of showing you care than by handwriting a letter. Make someone smile on the other side of the world by joining Global Penfriends and get writing regularly.

Play Father Christmas

It’s hard to believe but there are many children who don’t receive gifts at Christmas. We think every child deserves a present and donating to a toy appeal will help put a smile on a young face on Christmas morning.

The Salvation Army is a great resource for finding out where your closest donation point is. If you’re unsure what to buy, here are some suggestions:

0-3 years: dolls, teddy bears, cot mobiles, baby clothes, bath toys, puzzles
3-5: dolls and action figures, cars, lorries, colouring sets, books, puzzles
5-9: educational games and toys, colouring sets, books, puzzles, board games
9-12: games and toys, stationery, books, hair accessories, gloves, scarves, hats, activity sets
13-16: books, make-up and toiletries, gloves, scarves, hats, t-shirts, hair accessories and gift vouchers

Signed, sealed and delivered..?

Overall, the national appetite for sending Christmas cards is wearing off. For us this is bittersweet – it’s lovely to receive a handwritten card but it’s also massive waste of money and paper, if not recycled.

If you still enjoy sending cards, choose your favourite charity and buy your cards from them to help boost the coffers at a crucial time of year. Local charities, St David’s Hospice and Ty Gobaith/HopeHouse, produce a beautiful selection every year.

Love your neighbour

In the winter months, many older people struggle to get out and it can be dangerous for anyone with mobility issues to venture out in wintry conditions and dark nights. If you’ve got a neighbour in need, why not help them out this Christmas?

You can deliver Christmas cards on their behalf, drive them to the shops for their Christmas food shop or help decorate their home. Above all, if you know of someone alone this Christmas, give them the gift of your time. Pop in for a cuppa and a chat; it’ll mean so much.

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