Tens of thousands of children and families who would otherwise have struggled have had a happier Christmas thanks to the hampers of food and toys which KIND has delivered every year since then.
And this year, while everyone else has been busy doing their own gift shopping, Stephen and his team have been working round the clock to make up to 1,800 more to go out before the big day.
“This is our 44th appeal and every night we come back from the warehouse where we do the packing and there are more and more applications for help,” he says.
“When I started in 1975, I really thought I might be doing it for five or maybe 10 years but then things would pick up, everyone would be alright and there wouldn’t be a need for it anymore. I thought I’d go and get a proper job!
“But now I can look back on 1975 when we had our very first appeal and on 2019 and I’m still working with the same sort of families. Things really haven’t changed for the better.”
One thing Stephen has seen consistently over the decades is just how much difference receiving a hamper can make.
“It just takes that bit of pressure off because if you haven’t got anything at Christmas it’s even worse than not having anything for the rest of the year because kids notice more. No child in this city or in this country should have to go without, but there’s no disguising the hardship at Christmas.”
When every other day is about just getting by, Stephen makes sure KIND’s hampers provide some treats alongside the basics.
“One of the reasons we ask for donations rather than food gifts in our appeal is because we want to make sure that every hamper we give out is exactly the same,” he explains. “We do a huge shop at places like Sainsbury’s, Iceland and Home Bargain and then we fill each one with brands and premium own labels.
“It’s really important to us to make sure that what’s in every hamper is good quality because families struggle all year round, often buying the cheapest food, so at Christmas we want to give them something that’s special.
“Our hampers look wonderful, so as well as the basics like tins of soup and tuna, there’s mince pies, chocolate, nice biscuits and crisps – all the usual Christmas treats that everyone loves. It’s a hamper that anyone would be really happy to be given.”
In the run-up to Christmas, Stephen is inundated with referrals from schools, social services and community groups, letting him know which families could use a bit of extra help.
“We only take referrals because we want to make sure that the hampers go to the people who really need them,” he says. “We’re able to tell everyone who donates that every pound they give is a pound that we’ll spend on making a difference to somebody at Christmas.”
In the 10 weeks leading to Christmas, KIND this year raised more than £84,000 to fill its hampers. It’s had hundreds of donations of new toys too, from generous supporters including Jaguar Land Rover, the Home Office and Jobcentre Plus, which will be collected right up to Christmas Eve.
“We ask every referrer for at least two likes for each child, so that way the people donating can buy specifically what’s wanted and it makes the gift that much more personal and special,” says Stephen.
KIND has grown into a year-round charity, providing experiences, opportunities and services for disadvantaged children in communities across Liverpool and Merseyside.
And Stephen is proud that, at such a competitive time for fundraising, it has met every target.
“It’s very difficult to run an independent charity because we’re up against some who spend as much on one advertising campaign as we live on for a year. But we’ve never been in debt and our supporters have been great because they appreciate what we do.
“Every year we get phone calls and emails saying, ‘thank you, you’ve given us a Christmas when we didn’t think we’d get one’ and that’s what has always mattered most to us.”
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