The News has been working with Churches Homeless Action, HIVE Portsmouth, and Portsmouth City Council to deliver some festive joy across our area with the Comfort and Joy appeal.
The return of this popular festive drive has seen people across Portsmouth donating vouchers to help local groups and organisations supporting those in need.
Louise Wilders, chief officer at HIVE Portsmouth, said: ‘This is a brilliant campaign, one we are happy to support.
‘We have seen at first hand the huge difference these donations can make and how valued and grateful the recipients are and would encourage anyone thinking of making a donation at this time of year to do so through Comfort and Joy giving support to our own people and communities.’
However, there are only a few more days left to make donations by posting vouchers in the special Comfort and Joy postboxes in the area, or sending a donation to St Mary’s Church, Fratton.
The Rev Canon Bob White, vicar of St Mary’s Portsea and area dean of Portsmouth, said: ‘As we all rush to get our Christmas shopping done and tick off the endless lists – Comfort and Joy reminds us that for some people that is an experience far removed from the one they will have in the coming days.
‘They will not be able to afford to buy lots of things, or have homes to put them in.
‘Perhaps you would consider adding to your list the supporting of the Comfort and Joy campaign and add a Christmas gift card or voucher to share with those who do not have the luxury of the gift of choice as to what they will do in coming days and celebrations.’
Cllr Chris Attwell, cabinet member for communities and central services, said: ‘This is a difficult time of year for many people - and even more so this year - so I would urge everyone who has not already done so, to donate whatever they can spare to the Comfort and Joy campaign to help bring a bit of cheer to those who are most in need.’
The charities being supported by the Comfort and Joy 2021 appeal are: Two Saints Portsmouth, Stop Domestic Abuse, the Roberts Centre, Catherine Booth House, the Society of St James, Sunday Suppers, Portsmouth Churches Housing, Life House, Friends Without Borders, and Hope Into Action.
Claire Lambon, CEO of Stop Domestic Abuse, said: ‘The Comfort and Joy campaign helps us give families who have experienced domestic abuse a Christmas to remember, and the donations we received represent the true meaning of Christmas.
‘For victims of domestic abuse, Christmas can be an extremely difficult time both emotionally and financially.
‘This donation could mean food on the table or a present under the tree for many families. ‘Stop Domestic Abuse is overwhelmed by the generosity of our local community over the festive period, and we would kindly ask if you are able to donate to this fantastic campaign, please do.’
To get involved with the Comfort and Joy voucher scheme, buy a Christmas card and write a message, without including your name and address, and purchase a gift voucher of £5 to put inside the card.
Do not seal the envelope, and place the Christmas card into one of the festive post boxes in the area which can be found at Tesco Fareham and Tesco Fratton.
Mike Taylor, operations director at the Society of St James, said: ‘The Society of St James is working with some of the most vulnerable people in the city who have found themselves in desperate situations.
‘It is always amazing to see the support and help people in Portsmouth are willing to give at this time of year. Thank you.
‘The Society of St James is currently working with over 200 people in Portsmouth who would be homeless without our support.
‘It is an amazing privilege to be part of the solution that helps people rebuild their lives and offer them hope, especially at this time of year.’
Another way to support the Comfort and Joy appeal is to post a cheque payable to St Mary’s Church, or send cash to St Mary’s Vicarage, Fratton Road, Portsmouth, PO1 5PA by December 18 – or hand it in at St Mary’s Church any morning between 9am and noon.
Carole Damper, CEO of The Roberts Centre, said: ‘Over the years thousands of families and vulnerable single people supported by the Roberts Centre have benefitted from the kindness of those who support the Churches Homeless Action Voucher scheme.
‘Never in the 34 years of the Roberts Centres existence has the kindness and compassion of those who make the voucher scheme a reality been more important.
‘At different times we all need the help of others and in these challenging times there seem too many more people who would benefit from the kindness of others.
‘The Roberts Centre has expanded our range of beneficiaries over the past year, across our 15 services we support well over 1,000 families and households a year.
‘Thank you because we can only help because you do.’
Michelle Treacher, safeguarding lead for Hope into Action Portsmouth, said that the Comfort and Joy appeal makes a ‘real difference’ to the people that the charity supports.
She added: ‘We offer supported housing to people who have experienced homelessness for a variety of reasons, empowering them to make changes in their lives towards a more settled future.
‘Our tenants often have broken or difficult family relationships due to the circumstances that have led to their homelessness and as a result find Christmas a particularly challenging time.
‘Experiencing the kindness of others and knowing they have been remembered gives a real boost to their spirits.’
Claire Haque, contracts and performance manager at Two Saints, said: ‘Two Saints services in Portsmouth have been fortunate to have benefitted from the Comfort and Joy appeal for a number of years.
‘The vouchers give our clients the gift of choice where they can choose to spend vouchers on something they need, want or buy a gift for a loved one.
‘This gesture can improve a client’s wellbeing by being able to purchase something of choice with the added knowledge that someone cares about them this Christmas.
‘I am extremely grateful to everyone who donates to this amazing appeal and would encourage anyone that can donate a voucher, please do so.
‘You really are making a difference to someone’s life this Christmas. Thank you.’