Diocese of Portsmouth

    Vouchers scheme to help those in need this Christmas

    23 Nov. 2020

    CHURCHES will join forces with local charities, schools and businesses to help make this Christmas happier for those who are most in need.

    Generous churchgoers will again be asked to buy gift vouchers and donate them to vulnerable families, the homeless, and those on the margins within the area. Those people can then buy Christmas gifts for themselves or their loved ones.

    It’s a project that has been organised by Churches Homeless Action and has been running for 15 years, raising more than £150,000 for those in need. This year, organisers are joining forces with the News, HIVE Portsmouth, and Portsmouth City Council to broaden the scheme and to increase its impact on those who are most in need.

    The basic principle behind the ‘Comfort and Joy’ project remains the same as before – individuals can buy gift vouchers from stores such as Boots, Tesco and Argos and place them inside a Christmas card that they’ve signed. Those cards are then collected and given to agencies and charities who work with those in difficult circumstances – single young people, vulnerable families, those seeking asylum or seeking refuge from domestic abuse, those sleeping rough and those without easy access to meals.

    This year, in the middle of a global pandemic, the project will also include:

    • individuals writing personal Christmas cards to neighbours or others who are isolated and may feel lonely at Christmas;
    • schoolchildren writing cards and sending them to those who are living in care homes;
    • local businesses being invited to provide specific vouchers, offering specific Christmas treats to those in need. 

    The ‘Comfort and Joy’ project will build on the collaboration that was evident during the recent Harvest campaign, entitled ‘With Thankful Hearts’, which itself came out of charities and agencies working together to help those most affected by the Covid pandemic in Portsmouth.

    Canon Bob White, who chairs Churches Homeless Action and HIVE Portsmouth, said: “We are encouraging everyone in our city as individuals and as groups to share some love in Portsmouth this Christmas.

    “We hope that together we can demonstrate, throughout Portsmouth, there are people who have love, care and respect to give. We want to invite the whole community to share some comfort and joy, especially at Christmas.

    “Whether it is an elderly neighbour, someone on their own or a family that needs some seasonal joy, we are asking people to think about their neighbours and community – is there someone who could benefit from a seasonal gift and a greetings card to show that people care?

    “Firstly to show that recognition of another person, to share that love with those around you, we are inviting everyone to wrote a Christmas card (or two) to send to a neighbour or someone in your street who you feel might be alone at Christmas

    “Then, to give the most precious gift we might have – the gift of choice – to those who do not have too many choices in their life. For some of them that might enable them to choose a box of chocolates, a new toy or even essential food shopping. We don’t want to make that decision for anyone. Each individual knows what will bring them comfort and joy this season.”

    If you would like to make a donation, there are a number of ways you can do so:

    • donate a gift card or voucher (In previous years we have suggested £5 cards)
    • donate a cheque (payable to St Mary’s Church) or cash
    • send your donation to St Mary’s Vicarage, Fratton Road, Portsmouth PO1 5PA, or hand in at St Mary’s Church any morning between 9am and 12noon.

    The deadline for receiving donations is December 18. The contributions will then be passed onto the agencies who work with those most in need. They include the Roberts Centre, Two Saints, Society of St James, St Simon’s Sunday Suppers, Portsmouth Churches Housing Association, Stop Domestic Abuse, The Lifehouse, Catherine Boot House and Friends Without Borders.

    The presentation is likely to happen at at special carol service held at St Mary’s Church, Fratton, on Friday 18 December. More details will follow about that when the relevant Covid restrictions are known. If you would like more information please email portsmouthdeanery.admin@portsmouth.anglican.org

    St Mary's, Portsea

    Fratton Road, Portsea, PO1 5PH

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