This year has been difficult for us all. Covid-19 has increased the risk of the vulnerable in our community and has meant that many charitable organisations are struggling to survive. Whether in the form of clothes, money, food, toys or time, your kind support will be welcomed more than ever this winter.
With Christmas trees being decorated, online food shops being booked for festive feasts and stocking fillers being hidden away from children in drawers and cupboards, it’s also the time of year when thoughts stray to those who are less fortunate. Many of us wish to give to those who might need a little extra help in our local community but don’t know where to find local good causes or how best to support them. Our ‘Christmas guide to giving’ rounds up all the local initiatives going the extra mile this year and how you can support those in need, either with the gift of time or donations.
Tower Hamlets is one of the most deprived London boroughs and faces increasing food poverty rates. In response, there are a number of organisations tackling the issue head on by providing food to those struggling to make ends meet.
Bow Foodbank’s Christmas Appeal is different this year – they are fighting to stay open into the new year, fighting to keep up with increased client numbers and fighting to stay ahead of more lockdowns and Brexit effects.
Since Covid began, their client numbers have increased four-fold, and at two foodbank locations, they now serve almost 800 adults and 1500 dependant children each week, with roughly £16,000 of food required to give everyone a small parcel (just 3 days emergency supply).
Whilst they are applying for all available grants and funds to get some big slices of funding secure, this takes time, and their reserves are running low. They need to target £240,000 to stop our service closing in early 2021.
They are asking donors *not* to purchase Christmas food, but to concentrate on the core ‘Foodbank Favourites’ so that more clients can benefit. If you can donate financially too, or run a local fundraiser at your workplace, community group or family circle, please use their online giving page.
Bow Foodbank, Bow Church (St Mary & Holy Trinity Church), 230 Bow Road, London E3 3AH.
Tuesday Night Bites
Tuesday Night Bites is an initiative aiming to provide a warm, safe space and nutritious meals to those struggling to make ends meet. Operating every Tuesday night from 6.45pm to 8.45pm in St Johns Church hall, their initiative is centred around inclusion.
Whether you need a meal, companionship or would like to volunteer your time, Neighbourhood Bites is open to all. No matter how much time you have to spare, Neighbourhood bites are grateful for anything you have to offer.
If you don’t have the time to volunteer, you can donate online to help fund the initiative and provide additional services.
Neighbourhood Bites are also looking for food donations from local businesses and will take your would-be-waste off your hands if you give them a call on 07725598051.
Neighbourhood Bites, St John’s Church, 200 Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9PA.
Helping the Homeless
Christmas is often a time of celebration and joy, but for the homeless and those living in poverty across London, it doesn’t always feel that way. The total number of rough sleepers in Tower Hamlets in 2018/2019 was 316 according to Tower Hamlets Council. There are several ways you can help.
Whitechapel Mission – Sock and Choc Initiative
Whitechapel mission has been helping Londoners help the homeless since 1876, including during Christmas time. We all know Christmas gatherings are going to be smaller this year, but for those sleeping rough, it is likely to be a very lonely Christmas.
You can support the Missions’ work this Christmas with donations. To make a positive impact on someone sleeping on the streets this Christmas, you can contribute to the ‘sock and choc’ initiative by wrapping a small chocolate bar in a new pair of socks. This way, the Christmas spirit can reach the hundreds of homeless that visit on Christmas day. Woollen hats, gloves and scarves are also welcomed donations.
If you happen to find yourself overstocking the fridge this Christmas or having a clear out of your kitchen cupboards, Whitechapel Mission are in need of various store cupboard items. However, check their website for more information as they have a detailed list as to which items are needed.
Staff at the Centre are available from 5am-4pm on weekdays to accept your donations, and 5am-12pm on weekends. No matter how small, your donations can make a lasting difference to those living on the streets.
Whitechapel Mission, 212 Whitechapel Road, London, E1 1BJ.
2020’s Crisis at Christmas will be one like no other. Due to the ongoing pandemic the charity is making some big changes to its Christmas services, now in their 49th year, so that it can provide vital support to people who are homeless in a safe and socially-distanced way.
Since 1972, Crisis has provided volunteer-run centres each Christmas, offering food, clothing, advice and support with health, housing, employment and benefits to help people leave homelessness behind for good.
This year, for the first time, Crisis has taken the step of booking out a number of hotels across London for a two-week period. This will provide guests with their own room and bathroom facilities, enabling them to socially distance and protect their health. Opening on 21st December, this offer will be available to people who have been referred to Crisis and would otherwise be sleeping on the streets over Christmas.
Despite the changed context, Crisis staff and volunteers will be doing everything they can to keep the spirit of Christmas alive. In addition to having somewhere safe to stay, a Crisis Christmas this year will include companionship and support, essential food packages, online counselling, Christmas activity packs with crafts and quizzes, fitness and wellbeing programmes as well as support with health, housing, employment and benefits to help people leave homelessness behind for good.
This year has been difficult for all of us, but it’s been especially difficult for those without a safe and secure home. With the economic impact of the pandemic starting to bite, we could see more people spending their first Christmas homeless. We need your support as much as ever.
Crisis at Christmas will this year run from 21st December to 4th January.
To give a gift of a Crisis Christmas, please donate £28.22 here.
To find out more about volunteering, campaigning and Crisis’ year-round work to end homelessness, visit their website.
Donating to a good cause
With 30% of children living in poverty across the UK, donating to initiatives supporting families could make a child’s Christmas.
St. Margaret’s House
St. Margaret’s House is open to all sorts of donations, from unwanted Christmas gifts to cushions, art materials, bric-a-brac, the list is endless. Depending on what the donation is, there are a number of locations that can become their new home. These include Create Place, a creative arts project which offers a number of workshops and free art materials, Ayoka, St. Margaret’s resident second hand shop and Gallery Cafe. Alternatively, they can be recycled by St. Margaret’s long term partners, meaning no item will go to waste.
For more information and details about what can be donated, visit St. Margaret’s House website.
St. Margaret’s House, 21 Old Ford Rd, Bethnal Green, London E2 9PL.
Do you have previously used toys gathering dust and don’t know what to do with them? Donating them to our local Charity, Toyhouse, where they can be used to help make a difference to struggling local families seems like a good place to start.
For over 40 years Toyhouse has been using the medium of play to help parents and children interact and share playful experiences, which are vital to attachment. They’re always on the lookout for children’s books and toys and during Christmas it’s often out with the old and in with the new, so they’ve put a special call out for donations.
Toyhouse currently hosts a rolling ‘Previously loved Toy Sale’ at the The Toyhouse Centre on Mondays – Thursdays between 9.30am and 4.30pm. Toys must be clean, in fairly good condition and sellable. Toyhouse cannot take soft toys, clothes or large items, due to lack of storage space. All profits will help fund Toyhouse services so they can continue supporting local families through play.
For more information visit the ToyHouse website.
Bow Toy Library, Bow Idea Store, 1 Gladstone Place, E3 5EU.
ToyHouse Centre, 92 St. Paul’s Way, E3 4AL.
Care4Calais are a volunteer-led charity, designed to help refugees living in the worst conditions across Belgium and France. Most of all, they work to provide warm clothing, bedding and food to those in urgent need.
This Christmas, put the faith back in humanity by donating any warm clothing you may have to the local drop off point in Poplar. They are in particular need of jogging bottoms or jeans, socks, hats, gloves, warm coats, backpacks and blankets.
For more details about donations they need, including food, visit their website.
St. Matthias Community Centre, 113 Poplar High Street, Poplar, London, E14 0AE.
Can you help us?
As a not-for-profit media organisation using journalism to strengthen communities, we have not put our digital content behind a paywall or membership scheme as we think the benefits of an independent, local publication should be available to everyone living in our area.
If a fraction of the local 40,000 residents donated two pounds a month to Roman Road LDN it would be enough for our editorial team to serve the area full time and be beholden only to the community. A pound at a time, we believe we can get there.