With the effects of the pandemic still in full swing, we can all agree it’s been a tough couple of years for most.
For many of us, the chimes of Christmas just around the corner are a sign of hope and good things to come, plus hopefully we might be able to actually see more of our family, for a longer period of time this festive season. But for some, Christmas can be a tricky time - money can be tight, situations at home not so easy, plus feelings of isolation and struggles with mental health.
One group based in North Petherwin hopes to tackle this with a new initiative to gather Christmas gift boxes filled with festive treats to give to Cornish families and households who may need a little pick-me-up this year.
North Petherwin-based ladies’ group Spice of Life, a social community group of around 50 members, have given Tara Melton and Andrea Richards the responsibility of fundraising for good causes within the community. For the festive season, Tara and Andrea came up with the idea of putting together Christmas gift and treat boxes, to help those in the community who may be struggling with their mental health, isolation and loneliness, or who might not be able to afford gifts for their loved ones this year.
Launceston Life met with Tara and Andrea, who told us more about the project.
“We just want to see what the local community is willing to do to help the local community,” Andrea said. “We want to help those who don’t have a voice. There’s a lot of people who won’t go to the foodbank, although we are focusing more on providing Christmas treats to people, rather than food parcels.”
Tara and Andrea have linked the project with a number of organisations with bases in Cornwall, including the Wild Parents Project, Cornwall Refuge and Action for Children. The project will focus on helping individuals and families who are struggling with money, escaping domestic abuse, living with mental health problems and another big issue in Cornwall - isolation and loneliness.
Andrea added: “Being rural, those people who might live alone on the back lanes and further out of the village centre might not get to socialise as much as everybody else. Part of our ethos is for us to go out and deliver boxes as much as we can, so that means whoever we visit can have a cup of tea and a chat with us, which is a big way into someone’s isolation.”
Both Tara and Andrea have a policing background. Having retired recently and moved to Cornwall in 2020, the pair now want to put their willingness to help others, plus their knowledge of certain situations within communities, to work.
They were both invited to join Spice of Life by Toni Martin, who began the group as a way to get local ladies together, provide opportunities to socialise, make new friends, partake in new activities while fully immersing themselves into the community. The group’s ethos is to support one another through fun and friendship, and giving something back to the community.
Tara and Andrea, who have been aptly named the ‘Advocacy Angels’ by Spice of Life’s members, are responsible for coordinating fundraising and supporting those who need it within the community in and around Launceston, championing good causes and local projects.
Spice of Life is a group of around 50 women aged 30 to 92 years, each encompassing a wealth of life experience and knowledge in different areas.
Over the last couple of years, the group has recognised the need to help family, friends and neighbours. Tara said: “Being able to spread a little kindness and compassion will hopefully put a smile on some of those faces who need it the most, especially at Christmas, when the majority of people are lucky enough to enjoy the festivities with friends and family, without having to worry too much about putting food on the table or being able to give and receive a lovely present or two.
“We think our Christmas gift/food box appeal is a great way of showing others some of that kindness and compassion, which is perhaps all the more poignant from someone they don’t know. It’s a relatively inexpensive way for others to club together and make a difference to a lot more people within our community.”
As well as hoping to raise money on their Just Giving page towards the boxes, the pair are also asking for donations from local businesses to help put a smile on a Cornish family’s face this festive season. From toys, toiletries, jewellery and other gifts, to some festive sweet treats, crackers and more, the gift boxes will help make someone’s Christmas. Plus any food items donated and leftover will be given to Launceston Foodbank.
“It might be a Launceston family you will be helping,” Andrea said. “With Covid, everyone is having a hard time. We want to put a smile on people’s faces and let them know that people care.”
Tara added: “Most of us are able to have a nice time with people at Christmas, and we often take basic treats for granted. Meanwhile, a lot of people are struggling. There are people that will help.”
If you’re a business in the Launceston area or someone who would like to donate an item for the Christmas boxes, email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange delivery or collection.
To donate towards the fundraising for the boxes, go to https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/spiceoflifeappealfund