Festive sharing

Christmas might feel like a long time ago but we wanted to report back on the great Festive Boxes initiative in late December. This event came about following a conversation with Di's sister Chris, who worships at St Andrew’s, Dartford.

Chris organises a fundraising Afternoon Tea at St Andrew’s each summer, with donations going to a local charity. Last summer, as we were in lockdown due to the pandemic, she decided to offer a remote version of the Afternoon Cream Tea by delivering boxes to the homes of those who ordered one. The idea was that members of their church family could enjoy fun and fellowship virtually together with afternoon tea over zoom at 4pm. It was so well received by the 28 that took part and raised a generous donation for The Ellenor, that Chris decided to do a Christmas Festive Tea. I thought that sounded like a great idea and we agreed that it was something we could potentially offer both our churches. We expected around 50 orders and felt confident we could do that.

With the agreement of our respective respective Church leaders we started planning and settled on 4 boxes: festive tea, low sugar festive tea, chocolate indulgence and children’s box. Chris and her daughter Verity set to work sewing stockings and baking a selection of delicious cakes. One of our little elves, Beatrice, filled the stockings and resisted the temptation to help herself to the chocolate! Our sister Jane made the low sugar versions of the festive boxes and iced and decorated the Christmas Cakes so beautifully. Our sister Helen, (yes there are 5 of us!) made the gingerbread men for the Children’s boxes.

I approached Alison, the creative leader of our Pop in 4 craft group, to see if she could make some festive gift tags and memory verse cards to go in the boxes and Angela, who has such a heart for our children and young people, volunteered to organise the children’s quiz. Debbie, one of the St Peter’s family contacted me to offer to bake the mince pies so the team was nearly in place. We had offers of volunteers to drive and deliver the boxes and I was in my element sorting out the admin to ensure it all went smoothly on the day and was safe for everyone involved. Orders started to come in steadily and before long, we had over 100 orders. Everyone stepped up, more items were made, as we did not want to disappoint anyone. The final number delivered was 120 boxes and we raised an astonishing £1370. The day finished with a Christmas Quiz via Zoom hosted by Paul.

As we wanted the donations to go to a local charity, we contacted the local womemns refuge and I made contact with Nicola Baker- Jones, the team leader for Clarion Housing who looks after refuges in the southern region and of particular interest to us, two refuges in Dartford.

Nicola was appreciative and excited that we had considered fundraising for them. Her initial thoughts were about buying items that they wouldn’t usually have, perhaps some outdoor toys or play equipment for the gardens and she is in the process of consulting with the some of those who will benefit, about the best use for the funds. When Nicola told me that many of the families they work with have to move out of area for their own protection away from friends and family it made me think about how incredibly unsettling and isolating that must be.

Here's what Nicola had to say: "“Our domestic abuse service users would like to offer heartfelt thanks for the fundraising and very generous donation that the congregation of St Peters and St Pauls have made. We have lots of ideas on how to spend the money and we are discussing this with the families residing with us and look forward to sharing this with you in due course. It is a very difficult decision for families to make when accessing our services and this year it has been extremely hard due to the added Covid restrictions and added isolation on top of the Xmas period. A big thank you once again for thinking of us” for the families with us your donation makes a huge difference to their recovery and future”

We hope, when Covid restrictions permit, that Nicola might be able to visit our churches and let us know more about the services they provide. We will keep in touch to see if there are further ways in which we can support them. A heartfelt thankyou to all twenty-people who took part whether in driving or baking, donating or sharing! None of it would have been possible without you.

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