Volunteer helping sort food at Bow Food Bank, East London
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The gift of giving: charities and good causes to support this Christmas

As the cost of living crisis continues, spare a moment this Christmas to support a charity’s mission to change lives.

Christmas is a notoriously expensive time of year. The combination of increased energy costs, the pressure of presents and endless food shops is enough to trigger anxiety for families struggling to put food on the table daily.

While the rate of inflation is finally falling, new research suggests that real wages won’t return to their 2022 levels until 2027 and 60,000 London renters could be forced into homelessness by 2030. Now more than ever, it’s time to look out for our neighbours, who might be contemplating visiting a food bank for the first time.

From participating in a fundraising Sleep Out in Canary Wharf to donating a hygiene kit to Whitechapel Mission, even the smallest gesture can make a huge difference. Below are some suggestions on ways to donate time, money, or gifts to make the lives of those facing challenges a little brighter this season.

Food donations

woman in hi-vis jacket handing a shopping bag to another woman in Bow Foodbank, Bow, East London
Photo courtesy of Bow Foodbank

This year, millions of parents will struggle to provide a balanced meal for their children. In Tower Hamlets, more than 39% of residents are living in poverty, and a quarter struggle with food insecurity. The food banks of our borough offer vital support to those who would otherwise go hungry.

Bow Foodbank

Bow Foodbank is an independent charity providing food and emergency items to people in crisis in Tower Hamlets. The charity has been serving the residents of Bow and Bethnal Green for nine years with characteristic friendliness and warmth. They operate with an open-door policy, meaning no referrals are required to pay a visit.

Between January and June 2023, Bow Foodbank gave out the same amount of food aid as they did in the whole of 2022. They expect 2023 to be their busiest year ever, and the food bank is starting to see numbers increase as the weather turns colder. 

Donating just £5 to Bow Foodbank will fund a child’s food bag, while £15 could pay for one family with children to have emergency food supplies for a week. This year, the charity has been offered matched funding, so for every £25 you donate, Bow Foodbank will receive £50 — enough to feed two families for up to a week. 

If you have some spare time, you could volunteer for a few hours a week, or every other week. From packing bags to receiving deliveries and greeting new clients, Bow Foodbank is always looking for an extra pair of helping hands. 

If you want to donate food, pay a visit to the several drop-off points at Maks News on Columbia Road, St. Paul Old Ford on St Stephen’s Road, Waitrose at St Katharine Docks and Sainsbury’s on Cambridge Heath Road.

Raine’s Foundation School, Approach Road, E2 9LY

Helping the homeless

Jessie, a client with Providence Bow
Jessie, a client with Providence Bow

Rough sleeping in London is the highest it’s been since the Greater London Authority (GLA) started recording figures, with 4,068 people identified on the streets between July and September 2023.

Providence Row

This Christmas, Providence Row is running a ‘Safe Space’ charity appeal to raise awareness and much-needed funds so that they can continue to meet increased demand. Donating £30 could help the charity feed three rough sleepers staying in emergency accommodation for a day, while £50 could help them provide weekly wellbeing and learning packs designed to improve literacy.

Providence Row has supported homeless people in East London since it was founded in 1860 by Father Daniel Gilbert. It provides a safe place, food, warmth, and access to advice for the vulnerable and homeless.  

In 2023, Providence Row supported 1900 people affected by homelessness in East London. The charity has seen a real increase in demand for its services over the past six months as the cost of living crisis continues to soar. 

82 Wentworth St, E1 7SA

Whitechapel Mission

This Christmas, Whitechapel Mission is encouraging East Londoners to donate ‘Socks ‘n’ Chocs’, Homeless Packs and Hygiene Kits to their clients. For Christmas, the charity requires 500 Homeless Packs, containing items such as wollen Gloves, thermal undergarments and a sleeping bag, as well as 500 hygiene bags of essential toiletries. 

Donations can be brought to the Whitechapel Mission on weekdays 5:30 am-4 pm, and 5:30 am-12:00 pm on weekends. 

The ‘Socks ‘n’ Chocs’ initiative asks members of the public interested in charity to donate a pair of new socks wrapped around a small bar of chocolate, then wrapped in Christmas paper. 

If you want your festive gifts or Homeless and Hygiene Packs to be enjoyed by clients this Christmas, the cut-off date for delivery is Friday 16 December. 

Whitechapel Mission is a volunteer-led charity that has been helping rough sleepers since 1876 with food, shelter, clothing and medical care. As well as tending to the immediate needs of every client, Whitechapel Mission provides life skills and job-training workshops as well as addiction recovery sessions.

212 Whitechapel Road, London, E1 1BJ

Spitalfields Crypt Trust 

Founded in 1965, Spitalfields Crypt Trust helps people tackling homelessness and addiction to transform their lives. The charity aids vulnerable people by housing them in the Acorn House, a 16-bed hostel surrounded by community gardens, with a team of on-site trained counsellors. After graduating from the six-week recovery programme at the Acorn House, the charity offers supported housing in Leyton, empowering clients to integrate back into the community. 

This year, Spitalfields Crypt Trust has been chosen to take part in the Big Christmas Challenge. Any donation they receive from midday on Tuesday 28 November to midday on Tuesday 5 December will be doubled through match funding. 

The charity has also brought back their East London art trail. If you visit any of their shops in East London during November or December, you’ll be able to see artwork created by those in recovery displayed on the windows. Next time you find yourself browsing for Christmas gifts on Shoreditch High Street or Whitechapel Road, support one of the Trust’s several charity shops and make someone’s future brighter. 

116-118 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JN

Support a good cause

Woman sorting through toys at East London Toy Appeal, Tower Hamlets
Image courtesy of East London Toy Appeal

From giving a child a toy this Christmas, to taking part in a sponsored Sleep Out, there are plenty of ways you can support those less fortunate this festive season.

East London Age UK 

You might associate Christmas with non-stop family fun and special, cherished memories, but for several, it’s the hardest day of the year. According to Age UK, over four million older people live alone, while one million older people had nobody to spend Christmas with last year. 

The Age UK Telephone Friendship Service provides elderly people with a lifeline. Over-60s are matched with a friendly volunteer for a weekly chat, creating hundreds of new friendships every year. Age UK is committed to providing this vital service 365 days a year, especially on Christmas Day. Almost 1.5 million older people feel more lonely at Christmas than at any other time of the year. 

Last Christmas, the charity supported 28,345 telephone friendship calls to older people, while 31,471 calls were made to their Advice Line. By donating just £10, two calls made to Age UK by someone suffering can in turn be answered, supporting the elderly on their hardest day. 

82 Russia Lane, Bethnal Green, E2 9LU

GrowTH

After last year’s success, GrowTH is organising another Sleep Out on Friday 1 December to raise awareness of homelessness in our borough. 

The Sleep Out will take place at West India Quay in Canary Wharf, London’s central business distinct. As participants brave the cold and sleep rough in one of London’s wealthiest localities, they will shine an unrelenting light on the inequalities of our city.

The charity has been running an emergency night shelter in Tower Hamlets for 14 years, providing warm beds and hot meals to clients. More than just a shelter, GrowTH also supports guests on their journey to finding a new home. Last season, 63 of their 133 guests found permanent accommodation and a new start after encountering GrowTH.

This year, GrowTH is partnering with St Peter’s Barge Church to host the fundraising Sleep Out. Having secured £10,000 in match funding through the Big Give’s Christmas Campaign, they are hoping to meet their target of £20,000. 

7 Tartan House, Dee St, Aberfeldy Village, E14 0PF

Streets of Growth

Streets of Growth is a youth charity based in Tower Hamlets, helping young people in crisis who are ‘seriously stuck’. The charity offers a helping hand to teenagers who are socially isolated, bullied, exploited, or caught up in a cycle of violence and criminality. By re-engaging young adults aged 15-25, Streets of Growth transforms their life trajectories for the better.

While 36 per cent of young inmates go on to re-offend once released from prison, Streets of Growth has a 7/10 success rate for positively changing the lives of their clients. The charity advocates for young people otherwise abandoned by the community and donations would contribute to increasing staffing capacity and project resourcing.

From jewellery-making classes and photography workshops to employability sessions, the charity is providing life-changing services, and empowering teenagers through access to the creative arts. Donate now to Streets of Growth to support the 250+ young people on their journey to a brighter future.

Hayloft Point, 6 Middlesex St, E1 7EX

For more about local charities, read ‘Bewildering and inhumane’: Tower Hamlets charities condemn Suella Braverman’s claim that homelessness is a ‘lifestyle choice’.

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