Salvation Army spreads Christmas cheer
The Salvation Army handed out 550 Christmas hampers to families in need yesterday.
Major Dena Hepditch said demand for the charities services had almost doubled in the past seven years and the festive season was tough for those with limited financial resources.
Stephanie Woods, a 29-year-old single mother of one, picked up baskets of toiletries, non-perishable food and holiday fare.
Ms Woods, from Pembroke, who works as a chef at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, said she would be splitting the Christmas gifts between her two-year-old daughter and the girl's grandparents, who help raise her.
She added: “I had an overactive thyroid in April last year and wasn't able to work, so it's been financially difficult for my daughter and I.
“For me, something like this just shows me that I'm loved and cared for.”
The Distribution Day event, held at the Botanical Gardens in Paget, was the culmination of the organisation's annual festive season campaign.
Major Hepditch said that the vulnerable group the Salvation Army worked with had gone up from 1,000 in 2011 to 1,800 in 2017, and that Christmas was a difficult time for some families.
She added: “Some of these people do have jobs and are trying their best to provide for their families, but with the added expense of Christmas, it's just very difficult for them.”
The Salvation Army's Calvin Ming, who organised the event, explained that people signed up for the drive in November and were given vouchers.
The vouchers were redeemed at the event for “grab bags” of non-perishable foods, Christmas dinner ingredients and toys for families with children.
Seniors collected their gifts on Monday and families attended yesterday.
Major Hepditch said that most of their donated goods came from businesses and schools.
She added that the majority of the toys donated were for youngsters aged 3 to 8.
She added: “The ones packing the toys are a younger generation so they tend to know what kids want.”
Major Hepditch said that the event attracted volunteers from all walks of life.
The police cadets and parks department staff, who maintain the Botanical Gardens, also contributed to the volunteer force.
Police cadet Zahjuhrie Augustus, 19, volunteered as part of her Community Action Team commitment to public service.
Ms Augustus, from Sandys, spent the day supplying bottles of water to attendees.
She said: “It's great to see the amount of people actually volunteering, and knowing that the Salvation Army have enough supplies.
“That's one of the reasons I joined the police service, because I love helping the community.”
Abdullah Muhammad said he volunteered as a way of “healing” and personal character-building.
The 20-year-old student added: “I was never the kind of person to help, so helping feels like healing to me because now I'm using my ability to help.”
Mr Muhammad, from Somerset, who helped carry people's gifts to their cars, added that the event captured the real meaning of Christmas.
He said: “Everybody is so kind and the atmosphere is so positive now.
“The atmosphere has to be the best thing I've experienced here.
“I think that giving back to charity opens you up to a new way of life and realising your own blessings.”