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Lifeline charity spreads Christmas cheer in Newton Aycliffe
For many, Christmas is a time to celebrate with friends and loved-ones but for those on their own it can be a difficult and lonely time. Lizzie Anderson visits a charity on a mission to spread seasonal cheer to everyone this yuletide.
ST CLARE'S Church in Newton Aycliffe has been bustling with activity on the run up to Christmas. For as well as being the base of the town’s food bank, the church is the headquarters of Lifeline Community Action’s (LCA)Helping Hands project. The Christian charity has been helping families and individuals in financial crisis from all faiths and backgrounds for more than three years.
From providing emergency household packs containing everyday essentials, such as cleaning products, toiletries and clothing; to arranging debt counselling, money courses and job fairs – the dedicated volunteers are literally a lifeline to many.
The financial demands of Christmas combined with recent changes to the welfare system, including the introduction of the controversial bedroom tax, mean the team has never been busier.
But they have still found time to spread a little festive cheer. On Wednesday (December 25), LCA will host a free four-course festive lunch for 80 people to ensure no-one has to be alone on Christmas Day.
Alwyn White, who has been a Helping Hands volunteer from the outset, said practical help was not the only support needed at this time of year.
She said: “For most people Christmas is a happy time spent with friends and loved ones but it can also be a lonely time, especially if you are struggling financially.
“There are many people who would rather not be alone this Christmas and that’s why we decided to hold the party.
“It is going to be a wonderful day. The community has been very generous.”
Volunteers and their families, many of whom have benefitted from the charity’s help in the past, are also attending the dinner, which takes place at the Bethany Centre in Woodham.
A few spaces remain at the dinner, where diners can look forward to a choice of four main courses, including a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. There will also be starters, desserts, cheese, biscuits, tea and coffee, as well as carol singing, festive games and much more.
In the last year, LCA has supported more than 1,000 vulnerable people in the Newton Aycliffe area, where 15.1 per cent of the population are described as being in the top ten per cent of the most deprived people in England.
Families and individuals are referred by social services, job centres and other agencies.
To find out how you can support LCA, which works closely with the national charity, Christians Against Poverty, or if you would like to attend the dinner contact 07936-431262.
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