A huge army of volunteers is preparing for a military-style operation in the lead up to the festive season as the Cottage Family Centre launches its 2016 Christmas Appeal.
It is calling on people in and around Kirkcaldy to give what they can to help others who are struggling to make ends meet, so that they too can enjoy a little bit of festive spirit.
And with hundreds of referrals from schools, social workers, health visitors and others expected to come in over the next few weeks, the whole operation does have to be meticulously planned and executed to ensure no family goes without.
Pauline Buchan, service manager at the Cottage for the past nine years, launched the first Christmas Appeal six years ago when it became apparent that many local families were really struggling to cope.
“When I think back to the very first appeal, there were fewer than 100 families we provided for that year.
‘‘Last year that figure rose to 756, and this year there could be even more.
“It is shocking that our help is still needed in these times – but it is needed now more than ever.”
And those in need are also changing.
Previous appeals supported families where either one or both parents was out of work. Today there are families where both parents are working yet need support because of minimum wages, zero hours contracts and rising costs.
Pauline said: “They may be able to provide food for their families, but struggle with meeting utility bills, and when Christmas comes around they just have no way of making their money go any further.
“What I don’t want to see is a child going back to school after the Christmas holidays and hearing all about what a great time their friends had and what they got from Santa – but they had no gift to open and no hot meal to enjoy.
“No child should ever be made to think that they are not good enough.
“That’s what keeps myself and my dedicated staff going with the appeal every year, even though each year it is more and more of a challenge and we are working extra long hours to ensure it happens.
‘‘The relief on the parents’ faces when they realise they are going to be able to celebrate Christmas after all is priceless.”
Every year, the Cottage provides special festive packs containing food enough to last for 10 days, with a Christmas dinner of steak pie, potatoes and veg, as well as pyjamas, toys and help with utility bills, or a combination of these, depending on what needs are identified.
It also helps ensure people have beds to sleep in and a cooker to make the meal.
“You would be surprised how many adults are sleeping on the couch or how many people are surviving on microwave meals,” said Pauline. “There are children without proper winter coats or shoes – this year we have already put in over 100 requests to Radio Forth’s Cash for Kids for winter coats for families in the Kirkcaldy area.”
Hundreds of letters have been sent out to local companies and businesses to ask for their help.
Anyone who would like to donate gifts of new, not second-hand, toys and gifts or cash to buy presents for children from babies up to 16-years can do so either at the Cottage Centre in Cawdor Crescent or at the Bank of Scotland, Carberry Road or Digby Brown, Hunter Street, Kirkcaldy, or Raw Anatomy Gym in Glenrothes.
The gifts should be labelled for boy or girl and the appropriate age, and be unwrapped so parents can decide who they should go to. Rolls of wrapping paper and sweets or selection boxes can also be included.
They have already had pledges of support from CMS Windows and Doors, Briggs Marine, Tesco, Digby Brown, Raw Anatomy, Bank of Scotland, both in cash and kind, and fundraising events from Ina Murray in Dunfermline and Carla McDowell in Kirkcaldy have also raised over £2500 towards the appeal.
Gifts can be handed in until mid December at which point they will be collected up and taken to the warehouse where everything is being collated, ready to be added to the festive packs which will be delivered by an army of volunteers from all walks of life.
The delivery date for the packs will be December 22, and anyone who has time to spare on that day, with or without transport is welcome to join those who have already offered their support.
Last year’s volunteer army included a convoy of around 25 vans and cars as well as over 60 people including Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister, social workers, centre staff, business leaders, school pupils and members of the Community Payback team.
“We couldn’t do this every year without our volunteers and we are extremely lucky that we have lots of people who offer their services year after year,” said Pauline.
“The schools in Kirkcaldy are great too, collecting gifts for us and helping out on the day.”
Donate gifts of new, not second‑hand, toys and gifts or cash to buy presents for children from babies up to 16-years.
Hand them into :
l Cottage Centre in Cawdor Crescent
l Bank of Scotland, Carberry Road
l Digby Brown, Hunter Street, Kirkcaldy
l Raw Anatomy Gym in Glenrothes.
Gifts should be labelled for boy or girl and the appropriate age, and be unwrapped so parents can decide who they should go to.
Rolls of wrapping paper and sweets or selection boxes can also be included.