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Spreading the Christmas Cheer

Children, young people and families from across Blaenau Gwent will have an extra special Christmas thanks to the generosity of businesses working with Tai Calon Community Housing.

The firms donated £6,500 after Tai Calon appealed for money to help those who might otherwise miss out this holiday.

The money has been used to buy presents, food, electricity and gas tokens for those being supported by Blaenau Gwent social services and local charities.

Jen Barfoot, Chief Executive of Tai Calon, said: “I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of our suppliers and contractors. It has been so fantastic to know that they, like us, really do want to make a difference to lives in Blaenau Gwent.”

Some firms bought gifts while others gave money. Tai Calon then contacted social services and local charities to identify children, young people and families in the greatest need.

Sarah Freeman, Economic and Financial Inclusion Manager, said: “We never in our wildest dreams believed we could raise so much money. It is great that we will be able to make Christmas special for children and young people who wouldn’t otherwise receive a gift.

We are also helping young adults who have left care and are having to cope on their own. One teenager asked for cheese in his food hamper because he couldn’t afford to buy it.”

The food is also being distributed through the Trussell Trust which runs the Ebbw Vale Foodbank.

Amongst the items bought were 79 packets of nappies, 25 boxes of washing powder, 153 tinned meals and 50 selection boxes.

One of those that gave to the appeal is VPS, a specialist property company. Darren Marl from VPS said: “We have supported similar appeals and were delighted to be asked by Tai Calon. In fact we contributed more than we normally do because we liked the fact that it helped so many local charities and the foodbank.

“It has been absolutely amazing to see the range of items that have been bought with the donations. We were expecting to come along to see a few gifts, but to see them all laid out was truly fantastic. This is really something we all need to do a bit more of and I think other organisations should now follow Tai Calon’s lead by doing the same.”

One of the charities to benefit is Hafan Cymru, which supports women and men who suffer from domestic violence. Jane Kirby, the County Manager for Blaenau Gwent, said: “We can not thank the businesses enough for their support. We have approached firms ourselves in the past, but haven’t had much success, so we are so very grateful to Tai Calon and its partners for their generous support.

“The presents will mean that our children will now be able to celebrate like any other child in the country.”

Vicki Thomas, Head of Procurement and Compliance, said: “The idea came from a member of my team and I am so proud that from there we have achieved so much in three weeks. I can not thank our suppliers and contractors enough, their generosity is heart warming.

A video about the day can be viewed at youtube.com/taicalonhousing and will also feature in a special edition of “Tai Calon on the Radio” on BRfm 97.3fm over the Christmas period.

Children, young people and families have been talking about how donations from businesses working with Tai Calon Community Housing made all the difference for them last Christmas.

One parent told Hafan Cymru, which supports women and men suffering domestic abuse: “My children wouldn’t have had a Christmas otherwise.”

Another added: “Mine wouldn’t even have known it was Christmas if it hadn’t been for the toys, as I couldn’t afford anything.”

Tai Calon raised £6,500 which bought presents, food, clothing, gas and electricity tokens.

Jen Barfoot, Chief Executive of Tai Calon, said: “We are glad to hear that the gifts have helped people. However, it is dreadful to hear that so many children and families are having to go without at Christmas. It makes us, as an organisation, even more determined to do what we can to change things for the better.”

The gifts were distributed throughout Blaenau Gwent by social services, local charities and the Ebbw Vale Food Bank.

A teenager who had a food hamper said: “This is the first time in ages I haven’t been hungry and worried about when I will eat next”. Another added: “I haven’t seen so much food since I left foster care”.

Vicki Thomas, Head of Procurement and Compliance, at Tai Calon said: “We are very grateful to our suppliers and contractors for their generous gifts. They made such a difference to so many people at Christmas. On behalf of everyone they helped, I would like to thank them again for their donations.”

The Leaving Care team in Social Services said the support had been “amazing” and meant they could buy extra hampers.

“We try to provide hampers for young people spending their first Christmas living independently and for youngsters we support who are in dire circumstances. Our food hampers were filled with fresh/tinned/dried food and some extras like biscuits and chocolates. They all had a Christmas present as well. We can’t say enough about how much they were needed.”

One mother was so overwhelmed when she was given her hamper that she burst into tears. She told social workers that she wouldn’t have to worry about food over the holiday period.

The team added: “Her children were delighted with their presents as well. We were also able to buy a gift for them to give to their mother. They were so excited because they wanted to show her how much they loved her.”

Jane Kirby of Hafan Cymru said: “One mum said it was an amazing surprise as she had never expected her children to have a Christmas.
We also had a child who said that people must really have cared about them to have done this. We would like to add our thanks to the companies which donated to Tai Calon’s appeal.”

Hafan Cymru also purchased new furniture for its communal room, crockery and was able to make sure all its flats had a microwave.

Sarah Freeman, Economic and Financial Inclusion Manager, said: “When we started our appeal, we never expected to raise so much money. It is really heart warming to discover the joy and happiness created by the generosity of our suppliers and contractors.”

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