Christmas 'a step too far' for struggling families
PUBLISHED: 16:38 09 December 2019 | UPDATED: 16:56 09 December 2019
A Norfolk Salvation Army corps has reported a 50 per cent increase in the number of families asking for help over the festive period.
The Sheringham branch of the Christian charity, where a team of volunteers has been working tirelessly to pack and distribute gift and food parcels, last year received referrals asking for support for 190 families from Holt, Sheringham and Cromer through the Norfolk-wide Toys and Tins appeal.
However, by the beginning of December this year, the number needing help had already topped 300 and the corps has been forced to buy £3,000-worth of toys to top up donations.
"It is a big increase," said Sheringham corps officer Major Alex Bishop. "I think it is partly down to the work we've done in improving contact with referring agencies, but things do seem to have got worse; there are more people who are 'just managing' and, for families in that situation, anxiety, depression and distress is the order of the day."
The Tins and Toys appeal, which has been run in partnership with BBC Radio Norfolk for more than 30 years, supports nearly 5,000 people across the county annually.
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At Sheringham, community manager Carol McKean, who previously worked as a social worker for Norfolk County Council children's services, said that for many families, celebrating Christmas was "a step too far".
"People are pleased to know that someone wants to help and receiving a parcel always brings a lot of emotion," she said. "But mixed in with that is feeling bad about not being able to manage and buy toys for their children at Christmas."
As well as running a food bank in partnership with the Trussell Trust, Ms McKean's team hosts dementia and bereavement support groups and social groups for children and adults.
The corps' efforts this year received a boost from sports and leisure management company Everyone Active, which donated 150 vouchers for eight-session family swims at Sheringham's Splash Leisure Centre and 100 passes for sports centres at Cromer, North Walsham and Stalham.
Mr Bishop said: "Our work with the Toys and Tins appeal is part of an overall community programme which is probably more intense than some other Salvation Army centres, but we have a lot of community support for which we are very grateful."
New and unopened toys, books, fashion accessories and toiletries can be left at any Salvation Army charity shop. For more information about the Toys and Tins appeal, visit www.salvationarmy.org.uk/toys-and-tins-appeal