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Spread a Little Happiness – a community movement to reduce loneliness for older people in Armley and Wortley

Words: Josie Armitage

The spirit of Christmas is here and the local community are coming together to support Armley Helping Hands’ Spread a little Happiness Appeal.

Dawn Newsome, Chief Executive Officer, said:

“Christmas is usually a time for family, friends and normally a month of celebration at Armley Helping Hands. We are aware how Christmas is isolating for those in later life who don’t have family and people whose family live far away. 

“This year will be lonelier than ever for those who are unable to spend time with their loved ones, due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This is why we reached out and asked our community to help us make a real difference by helping to reduce loneliness for older people and support our Spread a Little Happiness campaign.”

80% of the older people receiving these gifts have not left their home since 13th March 2020.

The remaining 20% have only left their home to attend medical appointments or essential journeys. 23% of these older people have not actually seen anyone apart from the post person, strangers walking past their window and staff and volunteers at Armley Helping Hands who have provided essential doorstep services like food delivery, hot meals and a happy conversation.

Armley Helping Hands wanted to reach out to their community and ask people to share their Christmas spirit this year by showing their older people living in Armley and Wortley that the community are thinking of them during the festive period.

Donations from Premier Farnells.

Their ambition was to raise £1,000 to raise funds to buy Christmas gift boxes that will be delivered in the week up to Christmas and on Christmas Day by Armley Helping Hands’ staff and volunteer team to their most frail and isolated older people.

Their aim is to bring some extra festive cheer and a familiar face to 250 households during this festive period.  They have already allocated 250 older people and have another 23 on the list who may also receive a hamper, pending donations. 

They have raised £1,147 through their Spread a little Happiness Appeal on their Local Giving Site. 

Ms Newsome said:

“It shows how the community have come forward in supporting their community and how one campaign has supported a wider community.”

Local GP practices have signed up to the campaign and each team are co-ordinating 10 hampers per practice.

Clarkies Fisheries are a dedicated drop-off point for the community donations and we have already received a large contribution from them including £35 cash donations.

Farnell Electronic Components Ltd (our Community Partners for our minibuses) are leading the campaign within their factory and staff are donating items and funds directly to the charity. ASDA Wortley has donated £50 of goods to be contributed to the campaign. Mill-a-Dam Bargains (Pontefract) have enabled us to purchase goods at a substantially reduced rate. 

Local residents and businesses have donated gifts and hampers. One resident decided that her and her partner will not buy each other Christmas gifts this year and instead buy items to produce two grandma and grandad Christmas hampers to be donated to us.

Grandma and Grandad hampers donated by a local couple.

Since we mentioned this lovely contribution to the campaign on Facebook, we have received messages from another four couples and families who have offered to do the same.

Kirkstall Valley Development Trust have offered 35 hot Christmas dinners and Christmas hampers. These will be delivered on Tuesday 8 December to our most socially isolated older people living in Leeds 12. Farnley Academy and local primary schools are making Christmas cards and calendars. Ms Newsom added:

“We are receiving additional donations that are not directly suitable for our campaign, but we are collecting the donations and sharing with our community partners and supporting their campaigns. We make the donors aware where their donations will be going and how it will support the local community.

“100 board games will be distributed between ourselves (allocated to our couples and people caring for someone with dementia in their Christmas hampers), ASPIRE CBS to support adults with learning disabilities who are in supported living or isolating with family and to New Wortley Community Centre for their family Christmas appeal, together with 50 brand new Disney teddies and 50 Disney books.

“Clarkies Traditional Fisheries have been an outstanding contributor to enabling Armley Helping Hands to provide vital support service to our older community. Their willingness to offer their facilities as a drop off point for our campaign has not just increased our donations but also brought the community together and showed how small businesses are the centre of the community.”

Clarkies are asking people to drop off donations at their shop up to 10th December.  Items wanted include Christmas treats such as biscuits, chocolates, toiletries and small gift sets, as well as items to keep people stimulated including books, magazines and word searches.

If anyone wants to get involved in the Spread a Little Happiness campaign, please contact Dawn at Armley Helping Hands through their Facebook page.

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