A Kirkcaldy charity is helping spread Christmas cheer to some of the most vulnerable children and families in the Lang Toun this winter.
The Cottage Family Centre in Templehall is appealing for donations to help support families struggling to make ends meet.
As well as cash, the centre is appealing for new clothes, pyjamas, toys, toiletries, baby milk and non-perishable food.
With many support services closing over the festive holidays, the appeal provides a lifeline consisting of 10 days of food.
The packs include Christmas dinner as well as support paying for gas and electricity to allow people to heat their homes and cook food.
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It’s practical help for families who are in the most dire need when services are not available to them.
The appeal gets no Government grants – it relies entirely on the generosity of local people and businesses.
Last year the Cottage was able to reach its target of £30,000 which meant it could support 1077 children and their families.
This year, it hopes to reach its goal of raising £32,000.
And the appeal is already off to a flying start as Cash for Kids, a Forth1 appeal that supports children, has already pledged £5000.
The Christmas appeal, which launches tomorrow (Friday), has already received pledges of support from companies such as Bell Group, Briggs Marine, CMS Window Services and Fife Council.
Pauline Buchan, service manager, has predicted that the number of children and families who need support is set to rise once again.
She said: “Last year was the biggest appeal we have ever done.
“We supported over 1000 children and their families, and they were all referred to us by other services.
“Going by the number of lunches we provided in the holidays this year, we are predicting that we will have 1300-1400 children and their families in need of our support this Christmas.”
Pauline blames the high level of demand for help on Universal Credit.
She said: “What Universal Credit has done is has create an issue with a system that was already not working.
“The social care system is already struggling to meet the needs of people who really need it, never mind those on the periphery waiting for help.
“Our aim is to give families in need of support a little bit of relief, where they can not worry so much and their kids can have they same as their friends are having for dinner.
“Our appeal means families will not have to choose between buying Christmas dinner or putting the heating on.”
And the people it supports are all local – friends, neighbours and colleagues.
Gemma Wilkie (28), from Templehall, has been going to the family centre for support for several years.
She said: “I wouldn’t be able to feed my kids if it wasn’t for the Cottage.
“The benefits that I am entitled to are not enough.
“I have to visit the Cottage three times a week just to put food on the table.
Gemma praised the centre, for supporting her through tough times, adding: “The Christmas appeal the Cottage put on is amazing,
“ I wouldn’t even be able to afford a chicken for Christmas dinner and my kids would go without food. Pauline and all the staff are absolutely fantastic – they will do anything they can to help ”
Dagmara Mrowiec (33), from Valley Gardens is unable to work due to health issues and finds herself struggling to put food on the table for her family.
She said: “The Cottage has helped me a lot, Pauline and all the staff are so friendly .
“No-one judges me when I come in.
“When I separated from my husband, I had to start claiming benefits, and because it was a new claim I had to wait for five weeks before it was processed.
“It was hard to ask for help, but I had no choice, as I had no money to feed my kids. I am lucky that I stay here where everyone is so nice.
“I have used the appeal before – without it I don’t know what I would’ve done.”
Stefan Grant (26), from Templehall, has been claiming Universal Credit since April last year, and is finding it increasingly harder to make ends meet.
Stefan said: “It’s hard being on Universal Credit.
“I only get £280 a month, and because I have debt to pay I am only left with £100.
“If it wasn’t for the Cottage I don’t know where I would be.
“ Pauline and her team have helped me massively.”