5 practical ways to give something to locals in need this winter

If you’re reading this, you’re hopefully lucky enough to be looking forward to a Christmas period of reasonable comfort, full of tipsy work parties, surprise gifts and sumptuous dinners with your loved ones. 

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for everyone. Much like the rest of the country, Leeds is home to many members of our community for whom Christmas is just another month to get through, whether that be due to homelessness, poverty, sickness or loneliness.

For less than your midweek fancy coffee, a simply donation can make the world of difference in somebody’s life. Money isn’t the be all and end all either –giving up a few hours of your time can be just as valuable. After a year that hasn’t been politically kind to the vulnerable, there’s never been a better time to get charitable this Christmas, and set yourself up with some simple acts of kindness you can carry into 2018. 

171207 Charity Food Bank

Donate to a food bank

When you’re stocking up cheese board or weighing up the relative merits of turkey crown versus a beef joint, consider adding a couple of extra items to your food shop to help those who wouldn’t otherwise get a meal on Christmas day. There are various food banks around Leeds that accept a wide variety of non-perishable goods such as tinned meats, pulses and UHT milk. Many supermarkets now have collection baskets near their tillpoints, or a quick search on www.trustelltrust.org will help you find your local bank. 

This Christmas, more seasonal goods are also welcomed – selection boxes, biscuits and sweets would be a huge treat to those who aren’t used to such extras. If you’d rather donate online, you can also submit money via the Trust, allowing them to put together food boxes that will help tide people over through Christmas. 

Volunteer at St Georges Crypt

Prone to a grumble over the cold weather on your way to work? Imagine having to sleep out in it. In the winter especially, the team at St George’s Crypt do great work to get rough sleepers out of the cold, as well as providing meal vouchers, showers and basic counseling. Books of vouchers for these services can be bought online and are easy to hand out around Leeds to those in need. 

Financial donations are always welcome, but the Crypt are also in need of time – willing volunteers to help serve meals, deal with enquiries and sort clothing at their Pudsey and Armley charity stores. Volunteers are invited to share as little as two hours of their time, easy to slot it into your annual winter leave. Visit www.stgeorgescrypt.org.uk for more details. 

Join Simon On The Streets

Working across Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield, Simon On The Streets pride themselves on the ‘practical and emotional’ support they offer rough sleepers in West Yorkshire. As part of their annual Christmas drive, they have set up a JustGiving campaign that aims to raise money to train more outreach support officers, the people responsible for aiding those who many not be eligible for other rehousing schemes.

At a time where Crisis are anticipating a 78% rise in rough sleepers over the next decade, Simon On The Streets are keen for people to realise the charity isn’t just for Christmas. If you’re able to, a small direct debit each month could make a huge ongoing difference in the support they are able to offer.

Spend some time with the elderly

You can be safe, warm and financially sound at Christmas but still be in crisis.

Loneliness amongst the elderly has become a huge issue as life expectancies rise, and many people find themselves facing the holiday season with nobody to share it with, resulting in a crippling sense of isolation and depression. 

Helping out can be as simple as popping over to check on a neighbor with a mince pie, or making the effort to travel to see that family member you always put off. If you have more time to give, consider becoming part of Age UK’s befriending service – visiting an elderly person once a week for a chat, to help run errands or in many cases, to form a blossoming friendship. 

Donate unwanted gifts to Leeds Children’s Hospital appeal

Nobody wants to spend Christmas in hospital, but many sick children (and adults) don’t have the choice. Put a smile on a child’s face by donating unwanted gifts to Leeds Children’s Hospital Appeal – a great way to encourage your kids to have a clear out and to learn something about the importance of helping others. 

This year, the Children’s Hospital are also offering something extra special. Donate £5, and a child will receive a magical personalized letter from Santa, made possible by the ‘Reindeer Express’ team at Leeds Beckett. 

For further ongoing volunteering opportunities, check out www.doinggoodleeds.org.uk