Festive giving in Liverpool: the campaigners making a difference to local causes
Your Move shines the spotlight on some of Liverpool’s festive campaigners who annually spend the months leading up to Christmas making a difference for those who need it most.
Interviews by Natasha Young
Shoebox Full of Love
Vorny Redmond’s Shoebox Full of Love campaign has been inspiring Liverpool businesses and residents to help those in need locally by donating essentials in gift-wrapped packages.
What prompted you to start Shoebox Full of Love and continue it year after year?
VR: I’d seen a television advert for shoeboxes to be sent abroad and I realised how many people in our own community are in need, so I put an appeal together for my friends to donate.
I thought maybe 15 people would donate to help rough sleepers but then social media took over and we ended up with my mum’s living room being filled with over 1,400 gifts.
As the appeal has grown and the wonderful staff at Rent a Space have donated more and more space to us, the recipient organisations list has also grown.
I continue to run the appeal as the need is so real and homelessness can strike any of us at any time. I’ve seen first-hand the reactions of recipients and the impact donations make.
It also helps me to be a better person; I meet wonderful people, I get an insight into other people’s lives, I visit schools and educate the younger generation on how to be kind.
What has the 2017 response been like and how has the campaign grown?
VR: 2017 has been incredible from the outset; the appeal has reached so much further and so many more people have heard about it and got involved from donating to volunteering time, premises, deliveries, etc. This year we’ll beat 2016’s total.
How much time do you dedicate to the project?
VR: I donate four months of the year to ensure it runs smoothly and to make sure that all donations go to the right places. This year I’ve had to take on extra admin staff on the Facebook page as I was struggling to find the time to answer every query.
What support is required from volunteers, donors and businesses to make the campaign a success?
VR: The volunteers are the campaign – they donate, collect and deliver. I just had an idea but the Merseyside community makes it a reality – we’re unique here. The appeal just gives a platform to those who want to help.
Who benefits from Shoebox Full of Love?
VR: Rough sleepers, hostels, refuges, domestic violence refuges, community centres in low income areas, neighbourhood centres, Dogs Trust, Alley Cats and Kittens and the James Bulger Memorial Trust. Anywhere that needs help, we help.
Although this year’s shoebox deadline has passed, are there still ways people can support the cause or register an interest for next year?
VR: Absolutely. Follow us on the Shoebox Full of Love Facebook page, on Twitter at @shoeboxoflove, on Instagram or visit www.shoeboxfulloflove.co.uk for updates.
Pyjama Party Liverpool
Mother and daughter, Karen and Ash Downing launched Pyjama Party Liverpool in 2013, drumming up donations of new Christmas Eve pyjamas for local children in need. It’s attracted generous giving from beyond the city region.
When did you set up Pyjama Party Liverpool and what prompted the idea?
KD: We set up the appeal in response to a social media post by the homeless charity Shelter. It said there would be 80,000 children waking up homeless on Christmas Day.
We wanted to help children in our area who would be affected. It was a tiny acorn of an idea – we thought pyjamas for children to wear on Christmas Eve would not only send a message that someone cares, but also new warm pyjamas give feelings of comfort. Plus it’s an unwritten law that you have to have new pyjamas on Christmas Eve in Liverpool!
Who does the campaign help and how have you seen it make a difference?
KD: We initially wanted to help a Liverpool hostel and the idea was to ask our family and friends to donate to help us. However, we had such an amazing response in four weeks that we were able to help hostels and refuges in Liverpool, Sefton, Halton, Knowsley and Wirral.
We now cover all of Merseyside and surrounding areas, and we’re able to help services supporting children who are not homeless but in great need too.
How has the project gathered momentum and grown since it first began?
KD: Initially we had enquiries from across the UK and other countries, with some asking how to get involved and set up similar projects in their own area.
We’re so fortunate that Pyjama Party Liverpool continues to be a growing community and we have many individuals and organisations collecting on our behalf across the five boroughs.
This year students from Wrexham University have joined us and are collecting donations too, and we have lovely donors across the country sending pyjamas by post each year.
Every person who gets involved, including those sharing social media posts, organisations who support us and people in the media highlighting our campaign, is a part of Pyjama Party Liverpool.
How much time do you dedicate to Pyjama Party Liverpool?
KD: We start planning around September/October and from then on it can be busy on social media, but Ash is great at keeping up with enquiries, liaising with media and gathering collection points.
In December we contact services to find out what they need for the children they’re working with. We also gather volunteers who collect and deliver the pyjamas – we’d be lost without them.
It can be very busy right up until Christmas Eve as every pair will reach a child who needs them in time for Christmas.
What has the response to this year’s campaign been like?
KD: We won’t know the final figure until we’ve gathered all of the pyjamas after our 15 December closing date. What has been striking this year is the number of new requests that we’re receiving from services, often on a daily basis.
Things are getting more difficult for people within our communities and we don’t know if we’re able to fulfil all requests as that depends on donations, but we do our best to help wherever we can.
At what point can people get involved in next year’s campaign?
KD: A lovely group which supports us each year is holding a fundraiser in March and the proceeds will go towards pyjamas for 2018’s campaign.
People can get involved at any point, holding collections in their community, place of work or with family and friends.
Come and join the Pyjama Party and we can make sure even more children go to sleep on Christmas Eve in new warm, cosy pyjamas.
Still time to help…
If the build-up to Christmas has flown by this year without you having time to assemble your gift-filled shoebox or purchase pyjamas in time for the deadlines, fear not. There are still local causes in need of help if you have something to give.
The Whitechapel Centre
The Whitechapel Centre’s work to end homelessness and give support for those affected continues throughout the festive season, as the charity serves up Christmas Day and Boxing Day lunches and goodie bags for service users.
Donations of food, decorations and gifts will be gratefully received as the centre strives to host a welcoming and special day during what can be a difficult time for many.
The last day for food donations is Friday 22 December, and a guide to which items are suitable and most necessary to donate can be found at www.whitechapelcentre.co.uk.
Foodbanks across Liverpool are in need of donations throughout the year to help those living in food poverty, with the build up to Christmas being a particularly busy time.
The Hanover Street-based Merseyside Youth Association Food Bank, helping young people under 25, is currently preparing Christmas hampers and is collecting donations of suitable foods and essentials until 18 December.
Meanwhile the HOPE+ Food Bank, providing food for those in the shadow of Liverpool’s two cathedrals, continues its appeal for donations and a number of foodbanks around the Liverpool City Region can be found at www.trusselltrust.org.