As families in Bo’ness look forward to winding down for the Christmas holiday period, the Salvation Army is in the throes of mobilising its officers and volunteers to help hundreds of vulnerable and isolated people.
The lead up to Christmas is always a busy and hectic period for many families.
But the Salvation Army will be on call to provide even more vital support than normal to people affected by issues such as homelessness, unemployment, poverty, loneliness and addictions.
At the top of the list, however, is the Christmas present appeal where, with the public’s support, the Salvation Army is aiming to ensure no child goes without a gift on Christmas morning.
The appeal is already well under way in Bo’ness, with more than 100 children expected to benefit this year in the town and nearby areas such as Linlithgow and Grangemouth.
Officer in charge in Bo’ness is Lieutenant Tom Dunham, who came straight from the Salvation Army’s training college in London.
He said: “Bo’ness is my first placement.
“I have now been here two and a half years and I am really looking forward to my third Christmas in the local community.
“With three other Salvation Army community churches in the Falkirk Council area – in Falkirk, Maddiston and Stenhousemuir - we in Bo’ness – we sometimes feel we are left out on a limb but, in my opinion, there is a real community spirit here in the town.
“People here really do care about others within the community.”
Nationwide, the Salvation Army appeal is encouraging people to add an extra toy to their shopping list so that families can make sure there is a small surprise under their Christmas tree this year.
Locally, gifts can be dropped off at the church in Corbiehall or at the charity shop in South Street, and should be for newborns and children up to 16 years of age.
Tom said: “Already we have received a fair number of donations for the appeal at both the church and our charity shop.
“People have up until December 19 to donate gifts as on December 20, our team of volunteers will then collate the presents in different age groups and deliver them to the families in need.
“While we ask people not to wrap the presents, if they want to donate wrapping paper that would be appreciated.
“We send out the presents unwrapped and offer the families gift wrap so that parents can get involved.”
The local Salvation Army is also involved with the town’s foodbank scheme, The Bo’ness Foodstore.
At this time of year, it is busy assisting in the make up of festive food parcels which will be distributed to families and people referred by local social workers and agencies.
Tom said: “Along with help from churches in the town, each one is donating items to help fill a festive hamper. We are providing trifle and stuffing mix.”
While the food hampers will be distributed to individuals and families in the local area, the Salvation Army also cares for those less fortunate and who may not have friends and family at this special time.
On Christmas Day, a festive meal is provided for people of all ages and backgrounds; it will be staged in the Corbiehall community church.
The local church is staging the event for the fourth year and it will offer a transport service to and from the church, a three course meal with light entertainment, quizzes and singing.
Tom said: “We already have 17 guests who have booked up for Christmas Day but we still have more spaces as we can cater for up to 30.
“Our team of volunteers will be on hand to look after guests between noon and 4pm to ensure they have a nice Christmas.”
He added: “I am sure there are more people out there in the community who are isolated and are not aware of what we offer on Christmas Day. If anyone knows of a neighbour in such a situation, we ask them to pass the message of our festive offer onto them.”
This week, the church’s parent and toddler group staged a nativity play on Tuesday and Wednesday morning and there was a surprise for the youngsters – a real baby in the crib.
Tom explained: “We always aim to have a new born baby in the nativity as opposed to a doll.
“We call upon a mum with the newest born to assist.”