Lancaster charity aims to bring Christmas cheer to those in need with festive parcels appeal
A vital Lancaster charity is looking for extra support in the run up to Christmas to help bring some festive cheer to those across the district that it helps.
The Olive Branch has launched its Christmas appeal, which provides festive treats and gifts to those it already support via its referral-based food bank.
Although known to most as a food bank, the Olive Branch also offer support in other ways, such as helping direct people to organisations that can help.
Their mission is to support those suffering distress caused by addiction, broken family relationships, poverty and homelessness, and to enable individuals and families to resolve and alleviate their difficulties.
They have connections with charities that can help with a wide range of issues including debt, benefits issues, bereavement, homelessness and addiction.
They also offer use of phone or computer facilities for those who need them.
Project manager Leslie Mann said: "The hand written thank you notes and cards we receive from time to time show how valued our service is. The simple fact that someone cares is often at least as important, if not more so, than the food itself.
"We have seen a broadening of the demographic of our guests. More families...often single parent families with three, four or even five children. More people in work, or in and out of work.
"We wish food banks didn’t have to exist, but it’s good to be able to help people, bring them some hope and show them love. These things are at the heart of our ethos as a Christian charity, but it’s only in living that out that it makes a difference to anyone."
And sadly, as winter approaches, the service is seeing a rise in the number of people living across the Lancaster district that are turning to it for help.During October, the Olive Branch provided 335 food parcels - compared to 295 in August and 325 in September.
But perhaps more significant is the increased number of families and children the charity has received food parcels for - meaning the food parcels they are sending out are therefore bigger.
In October they provided for 104 families, compared to 85 in September - the highest number in six months.
The Olive Branch always welcomes generous donations from the community to help with their food parcels.
The items they are constantly low on are: tinned meat, tinned fish, cereal, tinned pudding, rice, tinned spaghetti hoops, coffee and juice.
While hugely grateful for people's demonstrations of kindness and willingness to help through their donations, they do have large amounts of pasta, baked beans and soup so do not need those.
In the run-up to the festive season, the Olive Branch also has a Christmas appeal, and so is also looking for Christmas treats.
Advent calendars are needed as early as possible, and other Christmas donations before December 13 so they have enough time to send them out with food parcels.
Items being asked for for the Christmas appeal are: Christmas chocolates, mince pie, chocolate yule logs, tionned meat, tinned pudding, crisps and nuts, Christmas puddings and cakes, non-alcoholic drinks, small gifts (new children's toys), fruit juice, treat toiletries, Christmas crackers, biscuits and coffee.
The Olive Branch is also on the look-out for a new home. It needs to be accessible and ideally close to Lancaster city centre for guests, volunteers and donors to access.
They need a space big enough to be able to welcome guests (including a small kitchen area), as this is a central part of their work.
It also needs to be large enough to store food and operate the food bank from, as well as space for an office. They also require parking space for donations to be dropped off/deliveries/volunteers.
You can find out more information about the work of the Olive Branch online here, where you can sign up for a seasonal newsletter, and find information on donation points, the charity's work, getting involved, and a blog.
On social media, the Olive Branch can be found on Facebook @lancaster.foodbank or on Twitter @lancfoodbank