Feature: Christmas Project 2014

Every year in December, Lifeshare hosts a Christmas drop-in service for people who are vulnerable or marginalized in Manchester. This year, approximately 150 volunteers provided three hot meals a day, fresh clothing and bedding, toiletries, healthcare, entertainment and company to well over 100 service users.

This year was also the first in which we were able to enjoy the fantastic improvements, provided by The Co-operative and other supporters, to our premises on Dantzic St. The new suspended ceiling in the dining hall both looks amazing and helps to retain the heat, reducing utility bills, while a newly boarded and carpeted floor has transformed the feel of the room. Yet more improvements are in the pipeline and we look forward to enjoying the benefits in 2015.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Christmas Project without a couple of hiccups. A faulty fire alarm proved a nuisance and a break-in on Christmas Day deprived us of one television, a games console and two vacuum cleaners. The flexibility and generosity of our volunteers, however, ensured that we were largely unaffected, and all of the stolen items were replaced very quickly.

As always, we try to keep everybody entertained during the Project and this year was no exception. As well as performances from entertainers such as Darren Riley, Mog Stanley, Dave Chapman and Jimmy The Clown, we were also treated this year to performances from The Co-operative Choir and six members of the Hebden Bridge Brass Band! We would like to express our thanks to all of the performers who give their time to add some 'flavour' to the Project - it is always appreciated by our service users and volunteers.

Finally, in addition to the food we provide from our own supplies - much of which was generously provided by Fareshare Greater Manchester - we were treated to a delicious curry from the Central Gurdwara Sikh Temple, prepared and served by their volunteers. This is not the first year that we have enjoyed their catering and we are very grateful for their ongoing support.

As always, we review the Project every year to see what works well and what can be improved so that we can provide the best service possible. If you volunteered this year, we would be grateful if you could give us your feedback about what you enjoyed and where you think we could do better.

CARDS

On 2 Dec, we were delighted to hear that a joint funding bid submitted to Manchester City Council had been approved in collaboration with Fareshare, Cracking Good Food, Compassion Food Bank and the Rainbow Christian Centre. The project aims to fight food poverty by providing 5,760 additional food parcels (90 per week across the 3 delivery partners) and run 12 cooking sessions per site by the end of March 2016. We are very excited about this new opportunity to move from providing a hand-out to a hand-up for our service users, and to be building on existing relationships with other agencies in the local area.

We were also very fortunate to receive a donation of five laptops to develop our Job Club that assists service users to make the transition from welfare benefits to paid employment. Making the appropriate arrangements online can be a time-consuming task, and these computers will enable more of our service users to give devote the attention it demands from our office where we can offer assistance and advice, rather than from a public space such as the library.

The Life Shares Art project continues apace, and we are delighted by the progress made by the participants. Our service users now have an online portfolio of work as part of the NOISE Festival where Darren Adcock, who leads this project, was selected as one of the Best New Artists in the fine art category. Talks are ongoing to try to secure some exhibition space in one of the many libraries and galleries in Manchester, and we are confident that this will bear fruit soon.

Fundraising

In addition to block grants such as the one that we received for alleviating food poverty, fundraising by individuals and groups provides the "unrestricted" resources needed to pay for the Christmas and Weekend Breakfast projects that do not attract grants from foundations and trusts. These activities provide 30%-40% of Lifeshare's cash income every year and are vital for providing the services that we offer.

This winter the fundraising activities of our supporters included

  • Helen Chown and her colleagues at Imageworks Hair & Beauty Studios raising £104.34 by dressing up as Christmas Elves
  • A benefit gig - compered by our friend, Gaynor Lo - at the Tib St Tavern that raised £154
  • A cash donation of £167 that accompanied the Harvest Festival collection at Hulme Grammar School

Coming Up

If you're in the process of burning off the excesses of Christmas and are looking for a goal to work toward, the Great Manchester Run (10 May) is a popular choice for Lifeshare fundraisers that does not demand too much training.

If you're aiming for a bigger challenge and weren't lucky enough to get a coveted place on the London Marathon (26 Apr) - or if you'd just prefer something more local - the Greater Manchester Marathon (19 Apr) is a relatively new event and a flat course.

Finally, for those who are happier on two wheels there is the annual Manchester-Blackpool Cycle (12 Jul) and the Salford Triathlon (26 Jul).

If you do decide to sign up for any of these events, we would be delighted to help you promote your fundraising. More help in setting up sponsorship pages and downloadable sponsorship forms are available from our website.

Trustee Recruitment

It is two years since we recruited volunteers to the Board of Trustees and we are now looking to fill some of the available vacancies. As a trustee (a non-executive company director) you will oversee the running of the charity, play a part in decision-making, and take ultimate responsibility for its operations.

If you think you might be interested in taking on this role, more information and an application form are available from our website. We welcome applications from people of all backgrounds who have an interest in Lifeshare's work, and fully endorse equal opportunities.

Weekend Breakfast

The Weekend Breakfast service continues throughout the year, providing a cooked breakfast of bacon, sausage, egg, beans and tomatoes, in addition to toast, hot drinks, cereals and fruit. In the current cold temperatures, demand for dry clothing is also high and we are pleased to be able to help out with items such as sleeping bags, too.

As always, we have enjoyed a boost in volunteers to our Weekend Breakfast service following the success of the Christmas Project. The extra numbers help us to give more attention to keeping on top of the food and clothing stores to ensure that we can provide these services as well as the cooked breakfast.

Healthcare Drop-in Service

For the last year, we have also been lucky to be able to provide a monthly healthcare drop-in, thanks to the hard work of the doctors, nurses, podiatrists and other volunteers from our Christmas Project. This service continues to grow in popularity, and enables us to assist service users in accessing mainstream healthcare services so that they can receive regular, targeted healthcare throughout the year.

Food Hygiene Certification

Finally, following a visit from the Environmental Health team at Manchester City Council, we are pleased to say we were given a 4 out of 5 rating for food hygiene. Given the limited resources that we have, we are very pleased with this achievement, much of which is owed to our volunteers led by our chef, Matt, who works tirelessly to ensure that our food services are of the highest standard possible.

Donations

The run up to Christmas is a bumper time for donations to our Christmas Project and we could fill an entire newsletter with thanks to our many supporters. The many donations we received include

  • Over 150 shoeboxes, wrapped and filled with gifts, that we gave out to service users on Christmas Day, provided by the Homeless Shoebox Appeal Manchester, organized by Katie and Becky.

  • £500 worth of sleeping bags, provided by Gregg's in collaboration with the Homeless Film Festival.
  • Harvest Festival donations from schools and churches across Greater Manchester, including St Andrew's in Royton and St Thomas's Church in Oldham where Lifeshare's Team Leader, Judy Vickers, gave a talk about the work we do.
  • A constant stream of Pot Noodles and other goodies for our Young Peoples Service from long-time supporters Ron and Ann.
  • Materials and weekend volunteer time throughout October for extensive work on the chapel toilets at Dantzic St, provided by Sue from The Co-operative, her husband and his friend.
  • A brand new suspended ceiling and floor carpet tiles throughout our dining room at Dantzic St, provided by The Co-operative's supply chain team.
  • A brand new vacuum cleaner, donated by one of our Christmas volunteers to replace the ones that were stolen during the Christmas Project.
  • A donation of toys from Key 103 that we provided as gifts to some of our CARDS service users with small children.
  • Volunteer time donated by Kellogg's and the Challenge Society Youth Group, both of whom helped to tidy and organize our stores in preparation for the influx of donations at Christmas.

If you would like to make a cash donation, you can do so easily via our website, by direct debit, or via JustTextGiving (simply text LSUK00 £10 to 70070 to donate £10, for example.)

If you would prefer to provide goods, however, we welcome any donations of food or clothing at our Dantzic St premises (see the wordcloud below for suggested donations).

Suggested Donations

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Registered Charity 1042500