8 ways to support Norfolk and Suffolk charities this Christmas
- Credit: Archant
We all love sitting around the tree on Christmas morning exchanging gifts - but it's not just about presents. There are so many ways to be charitable at Christmas, from giving your time and money to adopting a dormouse.
My son has a rather expensive interactive toy tiger at the top of his Christmas list this year. After telling him that it might be a bit much for Father Christmas, I then found it on sale and managed to convince hubby that it was do-able. I can't wait to see his face when he opens it on Christmas day.
Having said that, I do struggle with the amount of money we spend at Christmas, especially considering the people whose only wish is to have somewhere warm and dry to sleep for the night, or families who are only just managing to make ends meet and can't even afford a turkey, let alone this year's top toys.
And it's not just about money; there are people who will spend Christmas alone, people who are ill or even scared. Don't they deserve a thought?
The answer is YES. And the good news is that there are lots of opportunities to support charities this Christmas, from simply buying cards to jumping out of a plane dressed as Santa.
Here are some ideas to consider:
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THE GIFT OF TIME
Michelle Turner, volunteer co-ordinator at Voluntary Norfolk, says volunteering at Christmas is a great way to help those in your community who are most in need.
'If you don't feel you are able to commit to volunteering regularly, but want to help for one-off events, then Christmas is a perfect time to do this,' she says. 'It is supposed to be a time of giving, and what better gift is there than to give someone your time.'
It's a sentiment that's echoed by Paul White, volunteering manager at Community Action Suffolk, which supports organisations in Suffolk's voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector.
'At this time of year we often think of others,' he says. 'Whether it's a sense of good will to all men, or if you are already thinking of your new year's resolutions, volunteering is such a fulfilling activity for everybody concerned.
'However, it's important to remember that volunteering isn't just for Christmas, it happens all year round. There are more than 3,000 registered charities in Suffolk and many more voluntary groups, all of which would not operate as effectively without volunteers.'
Organisations looking for volunteers to help with Christmas lunches include:
• Open Christmas Norwich – The Halls, Norwich – www.openchristmas.org.uk
• Open Christmas Great Yarmouth – The Marina Centre, Great Yarmouth – www.openchristmas greatyarmouth.org
• Salvation Army – holds lunches across Norfolk and Suffolk – www.salvationarmy.org.uk
• Gatehouse Christmas Project – St Benedict's School, Bury St Edmunds – www.gatehouse.org.uk
There are many other opportunities for people to give their time to others over Christmas. If you're not sure where to start looking, either contact a local charity near to you or visit www.volunteersuffolk.org.uk or www.voluntarynorfolk.org.uk for a list of volunteering opportunities.
Buying charity cards is one of the easiest ways to support good causes at Christmas. But if you're struggling to decide which one to support, then the Original Norwich Charity Christmas Card Shop is the answer, as it divides the money raised between 25 local, national and international charities.
This is the 52nd year that the shop has opened, and it can be found on St Stephen's Street, next to Sainsbury's Local and opposite M&S.
A total of nearly £2,000,000 has been raised to date – £39,720 last year alone. As well as Christmas cards, the store also stocks other seasonal items, such as wrapping paper and calendars.
LIGHT IT UP
Drive or take a walk around your community and you will probably find a house that stands out from the rest this Christmas. Lit up like a grotto, you can't miss them, and many of these dazzling lights displays are also raising money for worthy charities, so be sure to stop by and make a donation.
No Christmas lights near you? Maybe you could light up your street next year…
CAROLS FOR CHRISTMAS
Your local papers are celebrating the festive season with special Carols for Christmas services, both raising money for local charities.
The Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News candlelit occasion will takes place at St Peter Mancroft Church in Norwich on Tuesday, December 12 at 7pm. The event will be raising funds for Norwich-based domestic abuse charity Leeway.
The East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star event will take place on the same day at St Mary-le-Tower Church, Ipswich at 6pm. It will be raising funds for Fresh Start – new beginnings, a children's charity providing therapeutic service for victims of child sexual abuse.
Both services will include a mix of traditional carols and readings.
Tickets for the Norwich service cost £5 and can be bought by calling 01603 772174, online at www.edp24.co.uk/carols, or in person at the front office of the EDP and Evening News on Rouen Road, Norwich.
Tickets for the Ipswich service cost £2 and can be bought at the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star offices at Portman House, 120 Princes Street, Ipswich.
Jumping out of a plane for charity isn't anything new, but do it at Christmas and you can fly through the air dressed as Santa!
UK Parachuting, which is based at Beccles Airfield, has one of these special skydives planned for December 9 in support of three fantastic local charities: Woodbridge-based Over The Rainbow Children's Charity, which supports families with children who are living with a serious illness or disability; Norfolk and Waveney's cancer charity, Big C, which offers emotional and practical support to patients; and TopCats, a children's and young people's respite care charity based in Lowestoft.
There's still time to get involved as UK Parachuting will take bookings until the day before the jump.
See www.ukparachuting.co.uk for more information.
For more than 30 years, Gatehouse has been providing Christmas food hampers – more than 400 last year – to those in need in Bury St Edmunds and the surrounding villages.
The boxes are decorated by pupils from Abbots Green Primary School, ready for the donations that come in from the generous people of Bury St Edmunds.
Amanda Bloomfield, CEO at Gatehouse, says: 'Our project gives everybody in the community a chance to help those less fortunate. We love having the schools involved with the practical side of things and they love to help and learn what we do.'
Gatehouse also runs a free Christmas day lunch at St Benedict's School in Bury St Edmunds, which is for anybody regardless of age, religion or circumstance, who may be on their own at Christmas.
If you know somebody who would benefit from the lunch, would like to volunteer or donate items for the hampers, contact Amanda on 01284 754967.
MUSIC TO OUR EARS
If you love a Christmas charity song, be sure to download local community choir Pop Chorus' debut single Always.
The choir recorded the single to raise funds for St Elizabeth Hospice in Ipswich and last week ranked number 65 in the official UK singles download chart, sandwiched between Suffolk superstar Ed Sheeran and Craig David.
More than 130 choir members feature on the single, which uses words from hospice patients about what the service means to them.
Always can be downloaded or streamed from iTunes, Amazon and Spotify with profits going to the charity, or together with three other tracks on a limited-edition EP, also available as a CD from St Elizabeth Hospice shops and a number of local retailers.
Good enough for gifts
A chain of charity shops across East Anglia is offering a selection of items under the banner 'good enough for gifts' this Christmas.
East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) hopes to entice high street shoppers away from their most frequented outlets by offering a wide range of presents for all the family, from popular fiction, DVDs and CDs to cufflinks, ornaments, toys and more.
ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL
It's not just fellow humans that we can help at Christmas. Suffolk Wildlife Trust has a range of great Christmas gift options that will help look after our local wildlife.
How about sponsoring a dormouse, a hedgehog, a barn owl or even a river bank? You can also support conservation in Suffolk and gift a unique wildlife experience by buying someone vouchers for the charity's Margaret Grimwade Badger Hide.
Or how about a gift membership to Suffolk Wildlife Trust?