15 December 2016 - 5:16pm
The Salvation Army in Glasgow has this week paid tribute to the volunteers who have been giving up their free time to help the most vulnerable in society.
As the country gets ready to wind down for Christmas, the Salvation Army is mobilising its recruits to support thousands of people across the city.
Through its present appeal, emergency food provisions, Christmas Day lunches, residential support for older people and people experiencing homelessness, and music and carolling events, the church and charity aims to spread as much festive cheer to those in need.
One of those volunteers is Scott White, from Anderston, who has been helping out at his local Salvation Army community church.
Volunteers Liz and Scott White collect gifts
The 26-year-old has had to overcome his own difficulties from a young age after being diagnosed with VATER syndrome - a condition that can affect the spine, heart, digestive system, kidneys and more.
But while Scott admits much of his early life was a struggle, he is thankful he is now able do the things that many people for granted, such as nights out with friends and trips to the cinema.
He says he is delighted to be able to help others less fortunate than himself and has been busy packing gifts for underprivileged children as part of the Salvation Army’s Christmas Present Appeal.
The Salvation Army’s community churches in Govan, Scotstoun, Easterhouse, Clydebank, Parkhead and the city centre are encouraging people to add an extra toy to their shopping list so that every Christmas tree can have a surprise underneath it. The Christmas Present Appeal is this year expected to benefit more than 500 young people in Glasgow alone.
Fresh food hampers, put together from donations and the proceeds of carolling, will also be distributed to families and people referred by local social workers and agencies.
Scott said: “Even though there are lots of things up with me I can still do a many of the things I enjoy so I am thankful for that. I enjoy cycling and playing
“I know there are children who would not get any presents if it wasn’t for the Salvation Army so it’s good to be able to support them to give kids a better Christmas.
“I’ll be spending Christmas Day with my mum. We’ll go to the Salvation Army service in the morning and then the two of will have dinner together. It’ll be a day to just take it easy and relax.”
Scott also helps out at the Salvation Army’s community cafe called The Beacon and spends his free time cycling and playing football. He is sponsored by Partick Thistle for his role as striker on the Scottish Special Olympics football team and cycles to Firhill and back every week.
Captain Matt Butler and volunteer Scott White pack gifts
Here’s what the Salvation Army has going on in Glasgow in the run up to Christmas:
Christmas Present Appeal
With the public’s support, the Salvation Army is aiming to ensure no child goes without a gift on Christmas morning. Every Salvation Army church and community centre across Glasgow is involved in this campaign, which is already well underway.
Gifts can be dropped off at any Salvation Army church, shop or centre and can be for newborns and children up to 16 years of age.
The main events, including the wrapping of gifts and distribution to children and families, will take place on the following dates:
· December 1-15 – The Salvation Army shop at 91 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow, is creating a special window display on the Christmas Present Appeal in partnership with Glasgow City Centre community church. The shop display will last until late December.
· December 12-14 – Glasgow city centre. Volunteers in Anderston will be wrapping gifts for around 400 children who are expected to be supported this year. Volunteers will also be making gift pick-ups from local businesses as well as delivering gifts to agencies that apply on behalf of families.
· December 15 – Parkhead.
· December 16 – Govan.
· December 16 – Easterhouse.
Christmas is a difficult time for many residents of the Salvation Army’s lifehouses (residential centres for people experiencing homelessness). Relationship breakdowns and other issues often mean many residents do not see friends and families on Christmas Day. Salvation Army staff will ensure all residents have a gift, Christmas dinner and someone to talk to. Salvation Army community churches make donations of toiletries and gifts to lifehouses, and there will be visits from Salvation Army bands throughout December.
Emergency food provisions
All Salvation Army community churches in Scotland will be providing emergency food where there is a need. The main community churches in and around Glasgow that distribute emergency food provisions on a large scale are:
Drop-ins and outreach work
The Salvation Army will be giving support at drop-in services around the country to people who are experiencing homelessness. Officers and volunteers will also being going out into their communities to offer practical support to vulnerable people through the following initiatives:
· Parkhead – Every Thursday there is a drop-in for people in need from 12pm-2pm. There is a free lunch as well as support with clothing, food, gas and electricity for people who are struggling to get by.
· Govan – Every Friday volunteers run the Open Door Project, which offers clothing and a hot meal to people, many of whom are homeless and vulnerable.
Christmas Day lunches
Many Salvation Army community churches and centres will be hosting Christmas Day lunches for people who would otherwise spend the festive season alone. These include:
· Parkhead – Officers and volunteers will be making and serving dinner to around 40 vulnerable people.
· Govan - Lunch for people of all ages. An estimated 30 people are expected to attend.
Bands and carol events
The Salvation Army will be spreading the joy of Christmas with hundreds of bands and carol services. The main events are:
· December 8, 10, 15, 17, 22 & 24 – Glasgow city centre. Salvation Army bands from across the West of Scotland will be performing every Saturday from 10am to 3pm and Thursday from 6.30pm to 8pm for shoppers on Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street, Argyle Street and St Enoch Square.
· December 9 –Anderston. The Salvation Army community church is the venue for the 10th anniversary of Christmas in Anderston. The event will include a performance by The Salvation Army-led joint schools choir involving pupils from St Patrick’s and Anderston primary schools.
· December 17 and Christmas Eve – Glasgow Airport. The Salvation Army’s Govan band will be performing to travellers in the departure lounge. The Salvation Army also runs the airport’s chaplaincy team to offer support to staff and travellers.
· December 20 – Rodney Street Lifehouse. An open-air carol concert will be held for residents and members of the local community. Clydebank Salvation Army band will be performing at the event, which starts at 6.30pm
Older people’s services
One of the ways we help older people is by running day centres that offer care and companionship. One of these is the Eva Burrows Day Care Centre in Glasgow. The centre provides specialised support to older people with dementia and their families, and initiatives include a reminiscence room that has been furnished to look just like a typical living room from the 1940s. In the run up to Christmas the centre will have something on every day for service users, from parties and entertainers to a visit from a 20-strong primary school choir.
What our officers and staff say
Major Raelton Gibbs, divisional commander of the Salvation Army in the West of Scotland, said: “The Salvation Army responds to need throughout the year but Christmas is especially busy. Right now our community churches and centres are at the heart of communities around the country to offer practical support at what can be a difficult time of year for so many people.
“We are grateful to our incredible volunteers and to the public for their continued support. Without their time and generosity we would not be able to offer the support to vulnerable people that we currently provide.”
Fiona McPhail, manager of Wallace of Campsie Lifehouse, said: “Christmas is a difficult time for our residents because they are not with their families, so we try to make it as festive as possible. We have a carol service at the centre on December 18 for residents here and from our Huntershill Court Lifehouse, and a Salvation Army band from Rutherglen will be playing at that.
“Then on Christmas Day we’ll hand out gifts and have a buffet and a little bit of a party for anyone who wants to come to it. Up at our Huntershill Court, our residents will sit down together for a meal.”
Eva Burrows Day Care Centre manager Sandra Sneddon said: "Age is just a number to us at Christmas. We go all out to make sure everyone has a great time. We have our Christmas party, entertainers, a children's choir from the local primary school, Christmas jumper days and a Christmas Eve party.
“And then we’ll have more fun and games in the run up to New Year’s Eve, or The Bells as we say in Scotland, with our ladies singing group performing and a steak pie dinner night on Hogmanay.”