No! Whatever the rules around social bubbles and lockdowns this year, Christmas remains an important day in our social calendar. It just might look a little different.
As ever, Community Christmas is here to try and ensure that no older person is alone on Christmas Day unless they want to be
As Christmas will look a little different this year, our Community Christmas events directory will not only publicise any venues opening their doors to the community; it will also feature more informal local festive activities.
Whether you’re planning to gather your neighbours together for a Christmas morning walk, enjoy some socially-distanced carol singing or deliver meals and presents to the older people in your area, we will happily publicise your activity on our online directory so people in your local area can find out about it.
We are also offering a call companion to any older person living alone who would like to receive a regular phone call throughout the festive season and beyond.
Community Christmas began in 2007 when the Founder Caroline Billington was asked to drive a handy-bus of older ladies to a Christmas Day Lunch. She was overwhelmed by what a small act for her made such a huge difference to the ladies. How happy they were to have been out, how they may have spent Christmas alone, and how they would continue to keep in touch for tea or coffee.
The experience left a desire to do more and the next year Caroline set up her own Christmas Day lunch, but she felt she could do more. The thought that there were people everywhere who would spend Christmas alone was enough to keep her up at night and in 2011 the birth of Community Christmas as a movement began. She shared her experience and an additional two events were born.
In 2012 the website was created listing Christmas community activities throughout the UK. It grew from strength to strength and in 2018 when Caroline felt she had taken it as far as she could- she chose us to work in partnership with us and left a legacy for us to continue. With 650 website listings and an additional 102 locations offering companionship and taking enquiries from Community Christmas she handed the reigns to us to continue.
We don't, Community Christmas is simply our Christmas campaign, while our wider work runs throughout the year.
We offer social activities through the year and are most well known for our Sunday Afternoon teas, but our activities also include call companions, reading groups, walking cricket and we continue to expand. Our goal is to help tackle loneliness among older people by engaging them in their communities and bringing generations together.
The impact of Covid-19 can’t be ignored and it’s likely that many community lunches that we would normally have listed on our website as part of our Community Christmas campaign won’t be going ahead.
However, we are publicising local community activities, however small, that provide connections on Christmas Day and over the festive period and, in many cases, there will be an opportunity to get involved. This information can be found on our online directory as usual.
As well as following the latest Government guidelines for your local area, here are a few other points to consider:
- It seems likely that more people will be spending Christmas at home rather than travelling to see family. so there could be many older, vulnerable people feeling alone this year. However, it also means there will be more younger people available and willing to volunteer in their local area.
- Any event in a central location is likely to involve transport to get people there and this must be done in a way that is compliant with local government guidelines, as well as normal safeguarding requirements.
- Creating more individual and local connections will require more sharing of telephone numbers and addresses than would normally be needed. It’s really important you comply with GDPR guidelines when handling people’s personal information, so you may want to take a look at our guidance for the safe handling of personal information.
- If community halls have been closed for many weeks or months, it may not be possible to open them safely to support a delivery operation just for one day. Pubs and restaurants may have capacity to cook more meals than they can serve and so may be happy to support any delivery service supported by volunteers. There may be a cost involved but not all those that face Christmas alone are financially limited and funds could perhaps be used to subsidise those that cannot afford to pay.
The Government guidelines in each local area may differ but, even if restrictions allow for small gatherings indoors, it is unlikely you’ll be allowed to bring large groups of vulnerable older people together. This doesn’t mean you can’t do anything at all; it just means thinking creatively about how to let those people who would normally be your guests know that they are not forgotten on the day.
Thank you for thinking of the older guests at these important times of the year. It is possible to use your group funds to purchase small gifts for your older guests but not gift vouchers. If there are no funds in your group account unfortunately we cannot pay those expenses.
It may be possible that a local store may wish to donate small items for your group. If you decide to approach a local company for gifts, please contact our fundraising team first to avoid any duplication of requests. Please however do not approach a local company for a cash donation.
There are two key ways your company can be involved in Community Christmas this year:
- by making a Christmas donation to support our work or by holding a Community Christmas event or activity of your own.
Please click here to make an online donation. If you would like advice and ideas on how to raise money, or to discuss what we can do for you in return, our fundraising team would be delighted to talk to you. Contact Sarah Newell on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7881 2364 to find out more.
- If you would like to hold your own Community Christmas event or activity, register here.
We will match up you up with isolated older people in your area who are looking for something to do. For more information and support please call us on 020 7240 0630 for guidance and support for setting up an event.
Any money raised helps go a long way to support Community Christmas events and activities with resources and guidance. This includes a digital platform to allow a central place for people to find out what's happening in their local community around Christmas.
As with all charities a small percentage of money raised goes to our overheads, but most goes towards the development and delivery of our services that help reduce loneliness for older people - our social gatherings and our new call companions service. You can find out more about our work on our About Us page.