2021 wasn’t the fresh start we all hoped for, with the first few months of the year in the third lockdown the country had seen.
This meant a particularly difficult year for the most vulnerable in our community; many people lost jobs, leading to many relying on food banks; UK food bank charity, The Trussell Trust, reported that between April and September of this year, foodbanks distributed almost 950,000 food parcels, compared to 840,000 in the same period in 2019. Charities and organisations have been stretched to their limits to help those who need it the most.
During the holiday season, many of us want to help people in need, whether it’s donating money, time or gifts – but it can be tricky to know where to start! We have therefore put together our 2021 Gift of Giving list, rounding up some amazing local charities and initiatives doing great work within our communities.
Tower Hamlets is one of the most deprived London boroughs and faces increasing food poverty rates. This year food banks facing a sharp increase in demands due to many people in our community who have found themselves in an insecure position thanks to the pandemic. 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 has been serving the area for seven years. Last year was particularly hard for them, as they saw a four-fold increase in service users. 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).
This Christmas, they are asking people to donate to their Winter Food Appeal and are asking for donations of whatever size and amount to help those who have been hit hardest by the events of the past two years and get them back onto their feet as we head into 2022.
Bow Foodbank, Bow Church (St Mary & Holy Trinity Church), 230 Bow Road, London E3 3AH.
Tuesday Night Bites
Neighbourhood Bites is an initiative aiming to provide nutritious meals to those struggling to make ends meet. On Tuesdays (6.45pm to 8.45pm) at Granby Community Hub, 37 St Matthew’s Row, E2 6DT. Inclusion is at the heart of what they do.
Neighbourhood Bites is also operating on Christmas Day from 2pm to 4pm and is looking for volunteers to help out. Give its founder, Tom Edwards, a ring on 07787555290 if this could be you.
This will take place at Neighbourhood Bites, St John’s Church, 200 Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9PA.
You can also donate online to help fund the initiative and provide additional services.
If you are a local business, Neighbourhood Bites is also looking for food donations and will take your would-be-waste off your hands – give them a call on 07787555290.
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. Many of us will be spending this year’s festive season back reunited with families. But for those sleeping rough, it is likely to be a lonely Christmas.
You can support the Missions’ work this holiday season 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 or having a clear out of your kitchen cupboards, Whitechapel Mission are in need of various store cupboard items: check their website for a daily updated list of donations that are needed most.
Staff at the Centre are available from 6am-3pm on weekdays to accept your donations, and 6am-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.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Crisis Christmas centres. Back in 1971, Crisis volunteers hosted their very first ‘Open Christmas’ with shelter and food for people experiencing homelessness. Fast forward to 2021, and volunteers are still as integral as ever to Crisis’ work during Christmas.
Due to the pandemic, the charity made some big changes to its Christmas services last year so that it could provide vital support to people who are homeless in a safe and socially-distanced way.
Crisis took the step of booking out a number of hotels across London for a two-week period, providing guests with their own room and bathroom facilities, enabling them to socially distance and protect their health.
This year, Crisis is continuing this endeavour and will offer hotel accommodation to those who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets between the 23rd of December to the 5th of January.
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, as well as support with health, housing, employment and benefits to help people leave homelessness behind for good.
This year has been another difficult year 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. Crisis and its service users needs your support as much as ever.
Crisis at Christmas will this year run from 23rd December to 5th January. To help the campaign, Crisis is looking for donations that will help them deliver this service to the greatest number of people over Christmas.
To give a gift of a Crisis Christmas, please donate £29.06 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 ‘Previously loved Toy Sale’ at The Toyhouse Centre on Mondays to Thursdays between 9.30am and 4.30pm. Toys must be clean, either brand new or in fairly good condition and sellable. Toyhouse cannot take soft toys, clothes or large items, due to lack of storage space. If you want to donate high chairs or buggies, call Toyhouse in advance so they can assess if they can take them in. All profits will help fund Toyhouse services so they can continue supporting local families through play.
For more information visit the ToyHouse website or call Toyhouse on 020 79877399
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 men’s hoodies, t-shirts and underwear, and warm and/or waterproof winter coats for men, women and children.
Or, donate gift vouchers to a refugee who, depending on the size of your gift, will receive gloves, a hat, a jacket or even a mobile phone so they can contact loved ones.
For more details on donations they need, visit their website.
For more details on how to gift a voucher, visit their shop.
St. Matthias Community Centre, 113 Poplar High Street, Poplar, London, E14 0AE.
First Love Foundation
Set up in 2010, Tower Hamlet’s First Love Foundation is a charity that provides support to those who need it most. Initially set up as a food bank, the organisation now goes further than food parcels, helping those referred with the deep rooted problems that got them into poverty.
The charity are looking for volunteers to help out with a variety of needs, from warehouse drivers to office workers. Click here to get involved.
Unit C, 18, Poplar Business Park, 10 Prestons Road, Londo, E14 9RL
East London Christmas Toy Appeal
Tower Hamlets has the highest level of child poverty in the UK. So East London Business Alliance have set up a Christmas toy appeal for those children who might not otherwise get the Christmas they deserve.
They are asking those who can to donate a toy, wrapped or unwrapped to Jubilee Place. This can include anything from rattles for babies to board games or vouchers for older children. ELBA have provided a list for inspiration here.
Mall Level -1, Jubilee Place, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5NY
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