Christmas appeal to help families with nothing ...

The green boxes fill every available space at the Cottage Centre - and every one is destined to go to a local family.

The green boxes fill every available space at the Cottage Centre - and every one is destined to go to a local family.



The centre’s Christmas Appeal will help just under 400 people this year; a tripling of the number since it launched just four years ago.

And the people behind it fear many, many more will be in need of their services in 2014.

On Monday a team of volunteers began delivering the boxes containing food, clothing and some gifts to local households. They are designed to last eight days - enough to get families with nothing through the festive period.

‘‘At Christmas we used to give toys as gifts, Now we give food,’’ said Pauline Buchan of the Cottage Centre. ‘‘I have never ever seen anything like it.’’

Gordon Brown MP visits the centre on Monday to see first hand the work going into helping the town’s most vulnerable families, and he said the last time he had witnessed such poverty in Kirkcaldy was during the miners strike of 1984-85.

Mr Brown estimated some 500,000 people throughout the UK will go hungry this Christmas - and the days when asking for food was seen as embarrassing have gone.

He said: ‘‘Last year there was a plan for one food bank in Fife. Within six months it had dealt with 1300 people in need, 400 of them children. Now we are planning to open not one new food bank but six in my constituency alone, and just to deal with the poverty in one quarter of Fife.

It was a bad enough commentary of our times that three years ago there were already 80 Trussell Trust food banks across the UK. Now that number has exploded to 300, with at least 100 more planned. That will be, by 2014, a fivefold rise in just over three years.

‘‘And the mood has changed as desperation has taken over.

‘‘The last time I saw such poverty in Fife was during the miners’ strike in 1984 when, cut off from any weekly benefits, the provision of welfare had been transferred from the social security office to dozens of local soup kitchens.

‘‘Today families, some hit by cuts in welfare, and who struggle to make ends meet, face not just a few months in dire need, like in a strike, but shortages which could last for years.

‘‘And it’s not just those out of work. Half the Cottages callers are in work, living on the breadline either because they are on zero hour contracts, short time or part time work or on the barest of minimum wages with children to feed. And the fact so many are working defies the image Tories present of the food bank clients as workshy, feckless and part of the dependency culture. No one in the modern world should find themselves begging for food after doing a hard day’s work.’’

Mr Brown also paid tribute to the great generosity of Fifers whose donations of help have poured into the centre.

‘‘When I visited my local Tesco on the day of their charity food collection I saw shopper after shopper donating tins and groceries that they could ill afford to part with, to the poorest in our community. I was touched, not only by the voluntary efforts of the shop staff desperate to help families who could not afford to shop in their store, but also by the generosity of people who had little but were prepared to give a lot.

‘‘I saw one pensioner, poor herself but wanting to help people even poorer, donate three bags of foodstuffs - worth at least £20 - such was her desire to offer help quietly, and without publicity, to the most vulnerable children and families in our community.

‘‘My father was a Minister who used to say the spirit of Christmas could be best identified by the three letters of the word JOY. J for Jesus first, but then O for the Others whose needs should come before You instead of thinking only of yourself.

Millions agree with that view of the purpose of Christmas and we will enjoy Christmas better if those of us who have, put the needs of those who don’t have before and in front of our own.‘‘

>> See this week’s Fife Free Press for a special report on the Cottage Centre’s appeal and how it will help so many people in town.