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The Gift of Giving: Helping Local Charities at Christmas

The Gift of Giving: Helping Local Charities at Christmas

We spoke to local charities about their Covid-19 related struggles and hopes for the future

The pandemic hit charities hard, with lockdown dealing a devastating blow to their ability to raise crucial funds. Events had to be cancelled, and their shops had to close. Meanwhile, in many cases, there was an increased demand for the services they could provide. But the year has brought many positives too, as we talk to local organisations about helping local charities at Christmas.

We talk virtual fundraising, vital resources and spreading the festive cheer with some of the organisations we so depend on during our hour of need…

Royal Trinity Hospice

In March, Royal Trinity Hospice had to respond rapidly to the unfolding health crisis. Its inpatient unit adapted to caring for patients with Covid-19, and it supported NHS trusts to free up bed capacity.

To support existing patients, the hospice transformed how it delivers care, providing remote support for patients living at home but visiting where essential. “The expertise of our specialist community nurses was in great demand from other healthcare professionals too, and so we increased our resourcing,” explains the hospice’s Polly Balsom.

“Despite the challenges of 2020, we could not be prouder of the professionalism and tenacity of Trinity’s staff and are so grateful for the generosity and community spirit shown by our supporters.”

The pandemic has significantly impacted its ability to fundraise and the charity says it will feel the financial impact in the months and years ahead. You can support by making a donation, or even simply buying your Christmas cards and gifts via the website.

Royal Hospital for Neuro-Disability

As a hospital and care home, the RHN’s work continued throughout the pandemic and had to adapt to a new way of working to protect patients and staff from the virus.

The pandemic saw many of its fundraising events cancelled, so it found different ways to raise money. Explains Jane Beaven, Director of Fundraising: “We have been holding some special online musical events – including a 24-hour ‘pianothon’ and ‘a day at the movies’ where supporters played their favourite theme tunes live.”

It has been delighted by the help from the community. “Local businesses donated meals, Easter eggs and other treats to our staff. Others donated iPads and tablets to help our patients connect with families and friends. And we were donated an incredible range of handmade scrubs, masks and other PPE.”

The RHN has set up an appeal, which has so far raised over £150,000, “The best way people can support us is by going online to donate or texting RHNDGIVE 5 to 70085, to donate £5.”

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St Raphael’s

Providing specialist medical and nursing care for people with cancer and other serious illnesses, St Raphael’s needs to raise £4.5m a year through donations, its shops, lottery and legacies. As well as the financial impact, the charity initially faced challenges around finding sufficient PPE but one of the biggest impacts was in terms of how to allow visitors.

Explains joint CEO Nick Stevens: “We have managed to keep open for visiting, but it has had to be much more limited and this has been very hard for patients and staff. We have all missed the ability to give and to receive physical affirmation as a result of social distancing and we have also missed the many wonderful volunteers who have been stood down for their own safety and to limit footfall.”

It was also thrilled to see how communities rallied around to support charities. Adds joint CEO Gail Linehan: “This is such a hopeful sign for the future and something precious we must make every effort to encourage even after the crisis. We have also been delighted to see how our own staff have pulled together to work as one team, showing a willingness, flexibility and undaunted spirit, which has often overcome personal anxieties, as they continued to place others first.”

As well as donations, there are many ways to help. “We will be seeking more great volunteers to help maintain our gardens, help with social media and support patients through befriending, and by working in our shops and helping with local fundraising and activities.”

Shooting Star Children’s Hospices

Shooting Star Children’s Hospices is reliant on donations from the support and generosity of the community to keep its services running, with over 90% of its income generated through fundraising. Not only has it had to cancel fundraising events and close some of its shops, but it has also had to adapt how it provided care.

Says Nigel Harding, chief executive: “With the families we support shielding over the lockdown we had to adapt how we could bring vital services like counselling to them as well as continue to safely provide in-house care.” One such project was the launch of a virtual hospice, to take services directly to families and remain connected with them. Families can access advice, support and counselling, and interact with other families.

The charity has been overwhelmed by the support it has received from people. “The help and kindness expressed by the local community during such a challenging time has been nothing short of incredible.”

Although it is unable to accept Christmas presents for children this year due to Covid-19 restrictions, if you are able to make a donation in lieu of a Christmas present, it will help ensure it can be there for families that need them now over Christmas and in the future.

There are also lots of virtual fundraising ideas you could try, from getting active with a virtual Make Every Mile Count challenge, to holding your own birthday fundraiser on Facebook. In 2021, it hopes to hold its Sunrise Walk series in Guildford and Hampton, as well as its first Sunrise Walk Snowdon.

Love Kingston

Love Kingston raises funds to give grants to a wide variety of local charities. But the pandemic hit many of its fundraising events, and it had to adapt to from face to face fundraising, to fundraising entirely online, which, says director Miranda Jaggers, was a steep learning curve.

But she says that the year has brought many positives, such as the response to its Covid-19 Emergency Appeal, which raised over £20,000 for local groups. One of these provides food and support to vulnerable and homeless people in Kingston, and it was a crucial lifeline. A volunteer told Love Kingston: “I spoke to a lady who cried with relief when she knew meals were coming tonight. I cannot stress how much these meals are needed and you have helped make this work possible.”

If you want to support longer term you can sign up to LocalGiving and make a regular donation. It will soon be launching a ‘Friends’ group which will give regular donors a variety of benefits, including reduced prices to special events. You can also sign up to AmazonSmile and every time you shop online, Amazon will donate to Love Kingston. You could also create your own virtual event and if you have a birthday or anniversary coming up ask family and friends to donate to Love Kingston instead of a present.

Princess Alice Hospice

“At the beginning of the year, nobody could have predicted the crisis we were yet to face across the UK, and the resulting impact on our charitable hospice, and the devastating effect on our crucial fundraising activities,” says chief executive of Princess Alice Hospice, Nicki Shaw.

“It costs £10.1 million each year to provide our free, high-quality care – only 24% of our funding comes from the NHS. In April, the Government announced funding up to July to ensure capacity was maintained so that hospices were able to care for patients who would otherwise be in NHS hospitals. Of course, we were pleased our frontline work had been recognised in this way. Still, it was a short-term solution, and we are concerned about long-term financial sustainability.”

The PAH team galvanised rapidly to adapt its services to support patients and families, and it has had a big upside: “We have accelerated the delivery of many programmes by months, if not years – particularly those that follow our desire to develop our digital capability.”

The community was quick to show support during the crisis. “They pitched in to make PPE, and donate urgent supplies. We received donations of fresh fruit and vegetables, when the supermarkets were stripped bare, beautiful plants, hand cream and many drawings from local children. We’ve received an extraordinary response – thank you so much from everyone at Princess Alice Hospice.” There are many things you can do to help, such as making a donation, visiting its shops, and donating goods (it has free furniture collection). You can also play its lottery or leave a gift in your Will.