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Donations make a real difference during festivities

By Mid Devon Gazette  |  Posted: December 24, 2012

Sharon Bradshaw , Shelagh Eastwood and Ruth Morley with the CHAT food donation box recently set up at Tiverton's Morrisons marcus thompson EXMT20121215E-001_C.JPG

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FOR most, Christmas is a time of great celebration and an opportunity to over-indulge, but not everyone is sharing in the frivolity.

Nobody knows this better than the staff and volunteers at Tiverton charity the Christian Housing Action Team (CHAT) who will help make this Christmas more bearable for a number of families in desperate need.

Housing advice team leader Jo Turner said special Christmas hampers to help clients were "flying off the shelves".

She explained: "We have made up nearly 50 hampers for our clients who are in the most need. They are like our usual food parcels but with a couple of luxury items."

The hampers also include a Christmas card and calendar for next year, which Jo said helped to "boost morale".

The past fortnight at the charity's offices in Gold Street, Tiverton, have been very busy.

"We have seen a huge influx of people as we have seen lots of people taking up new accommodation in the last few weeks."

While many families come together for Christmas, for some people it is a time when they experienced feelings of isolation.

Jo said: "It could be the first Christmas where they don't have access to their children because of a relationship breakdown or it could be spending Christmas alone because of problems with their family. It is a time of year where everything is shut and there aren't things to do It can be a lonely time."

"There is pressure on parents to provide for their families and if the sole provider loses their job just before Christmas, it can be horrible. There are lots of things we take for granted which people who suddenly lose their income really struggle. We have people who have to move out of their home with all their possessions and on the other hand people who finally get a place to live but nothing to move in with. What do you put into a food hamper for someone who doesn't have a kettle or tin opener? That was a problem we had to tackle last week."

CHAT will be closing its offices for the working days between Christmas and the New Year, but Jo said staff would still be checking urgent messages during that time and encouraged people with housing or tenancy issues to get in touch with the charity so they could begin the New Year with some positive help.

The charity has recently launched a scheme to help people experiencing short-term fuel poverty.

The scheme has been backed by Tiverton Town Council, which recently contributed £2,000 to help set it up. A number of agencies in the town, including the Job Centre, Citizens Advice and Children's Centre, are able to issue vouchers to clients which can be presented, along with a gas or electricity pre payment key or card, to CHAT where a volunteer tops up meters.

Advice on fuel saving; budgeting; debt; welfare benefits; insulation and grants is also offered.

The scheme has been developed with conjunction with Tiverton councillor Tony Hendy, who is a letting agent in the town and says he has visited many properties where families said they could not afford to heat their residence.

It is hoped the pilot scheme will be able to help as many as 400 people over the course of this winter, and if it proves successful could be expanded next year.

The charity said it was extremely grateful to the generous members of the public who support its work.

CHAT on 01884 255606.

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