Cottage Centre Appeal: ‘If we don’t step up, Christmas won’t exist for many children’

Gordon Brown at the Cottage Family Centre
Gordon Brown at the Cottage Family Centre

Everywhere Gordon Brown goes on business he always takes time to tell people about the Cottage Family Centre.

He was made honorary patron of the centre, which provides help and support to vulnerable families, earlier this year when it celebrated its 30th birthday.

Marilyn Livingstone with Gordon Brown

Marilyn Livingstone with Gordon Brown

And he told the Press: “Every town should have a Cottage Centre. If they did it would make a huge difference to families.”

Gordon and his wife Sarah have been firm supporters of the Cottage since it began and he has helped out at every Christmas appeal since they began seven years ago.

And his whole family, including sons John and Fraser will be out helping with the deliveries this year.

He said: “It is a tragedy that so many children in and around Kirkcaldy are going to need this support at Christmas. What’s more many of these are in families where one or even both parents are working, but their wages are so low and the needs of children are so great that they are struggling to cope.

Kelly Rodgers, assistant manager  with son Jake and Pauline Buchan,  manager at the Cottage, face a busy few weeks.

Kelly Rodgers, assistant manager with son Jake and Pauline Buchan, manager at the Cottage, face a busy few weeks.

“Most Christmases I manage to go around to help deliver the packs from the Cottage and people are very grateful,

“What shocked me was that some of these families don’t even have a cooker to cook the food on, some don’t have the basic essentials.

“When we started in 2011, there were 100 people being given help with toys. Now we are providing help with food, clothing, beds, cookers and heating. That’s why we have to raise such huge amounts.

“It is up by 40 per cent on last year when we helped 817 families. This year it will be well in excess of 900 and these are all children in need.

“Universal Credit is being introduced in December in Fife. I have called for it to be cancelled. The damage done will include rent arrears, debts going up and a lot of people seeing a reduction in the help they are getting.

“This will be the most difficult year with more children in poverty than in the last 30 years, and that figure is still rising. That is why we are having to step it up – if we don’t then Christmas won’t exist for many children.”

He said that the Cottage appeal needs £25,000 for food and clothing alone, with toys additional to that.

“It is a massive undertaking and we are indebted to our wonderful volunteers who give up their own time to help out every year.”

Cottage is a passion of mine

Marilyn Livingstone has been chairman of the Cottage Centre’s management committee since 2012, but her involvement stretches back much further.

She used to hold her MSP surgeries there and was also on the domestic abuse forum and other women’s organisations which held meetings in the premises.

She was involved in helping to get funding for the new building which replaced the original cottage where it all began, and when she was asked to chair the board she was happy to help.

“The Cottage is a real passion of mine and I believe 100 per cent in the work it does,” she explained.

“This is the seventh year of our Christmas Appeal which started out because of need in the Templehall area and has grown every year since.

“This year we have the additional worry about the implementation of Universal Credit and the impact it will have on our capacity to support such large numbers.

“When we first started we did it all from here, now it needs an industrial unit.

“These are children in our community that we are having to step in to ensure that they get something on Christmas morning, to ensure that their houses are warm and that they have warm clothing to see them through the winter. We have given out almost 300 winter coats already.

“But the big issue this year is that many of these children come from parents who are both working but don’t have enough to make ends meet.”